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CO_MEX_2023_Necocli_ChristianValencia_MigrantesGrupoFocalHombres-min © Lina Arenas for Action Against Hunger



Action Against Hunger activates its humanitarian response in the Darién region with a focus on maternal and child health

The Darién region has become one of the most extreme and challenging migration hotspots in the Americas. According to Panama’s National Migration Service, almost 350,000 people entered the country irregularly through the Darién jungle last summer alone.  

Our humanitarian response focuses on providing maternal and child health care through mobile brigades composed of medical staff and nutritionists. 

Action Against Hunger publishes a report analysing the situation of migrants in the Darien region where, through numerous testimonies, it is possible to understand their expectations, priorities and needs on their migratory route to the United States. 

Action Against Hunger has started its humanitarian activities in the challenging Darien region, located on the border between Colombia and Panama. This jungle area, characterised by difficult access and extreme weather conditions, is part of the migration route used by thousands of people on their way to the United States. Action Against Hunger’s humanitarian response focuses on providing maternal and child health care through mobile brigades composed of medical staff and nutritionists. 

“Our priority focus is to provide assistance to the migrant population facing the greatest vulnerabilities, including pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as children under the age of 10. We know that many people will continue their journey from the darien jungle to the north and our mission is to provide them with the essential services needed to ensure their wellbeing and health,” says John Orlando, country director in Colombia for Action Against Hunger. 

CO_MEX_2023_Necocli_ChristianValencia_MigrantesMujerHija-min © Lina Arenas for Action Against Hunger
CO_MEX_2023_Turbo_ChristianValencia_PuertoMigranteNiña-min © Lina Arenas for Action Against Hunger
CO_MEX_2023_Capurgana_LinaArenas_FilaMigrantes-min © Lina Arenas for Action Against Hunger


Marcela, a migrant mother, shares the reasons why she and her husband and two children made the decision to cross the jungle. “Everyone judges you when they see you with the children, they say you are irresponsible, but things are very difficult here. After waking up and seeing that we didn’t have enough to feed our children for many days, we were forced to migrate again. We know that the journey is hard, but if one of us left alone, the other had to bear the pressure of deciding between paying the rent for the room where we lived and feeding the children. Besides, afterwards I would have to go alone with the children through the Darien. We thought about it a lot and we are both going to get the children out of it, we have to have faith and keep going“, says this young Venezuelan mother, 26 years old. 

The work of the Action Against Hunger mobile brigades, deployed since September, has focused on identifying pregnant mothers with low birth weight for gestational age, children at risk of malnutrition, and the prevalence of respiratory infections and skin problems. “We have identified children with chronic malnutrition, others at risk, stunted children and also children with micronutrient deficiencies (hidden hunger),” says Dr. Angelica, a doctor on the Action Against Hunger team. 

Facing this context is a challenge,” she continues, “the population in transit has a very clear purpose, which is to cross the Darién. We have identified children with respiratory diseases and it is an additional risk for them to cross the jungle in these conditions, as the humidity and physical demands will undoubtedly worsen their health conditions,” she explains. 

During the year 2023, a significant increase in migration flows has been observed in this region. According to Panama’s National Migration Service, almost 350,000 people entered the country irregularly through the Darien jungle until last August, which is almost 100,000 more people than in the whole of 2022 and an 87% increase compared to 2019. Peaks of up to 3,000 people per day have been recorded in recent weeks. 

The municipalities concentrating the movements of thousands of migrants are: Necoclí, Turbo and Apartadó, in the department of Antioquia, and Capurganá and Acandí, in the department of Chocó, in Colombia. 

In this region, Action Against Hunger works in close collaboration with HIAS and in coordination with the Attention and Orientation Points (PAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Migration Colombia, the Interagency Group on Mixed Migration Flows (GIFMM) and the Colombian Red Cross. In Capurganá and Acandí, it cooperates with the PAOs, the Health Secretariat, the Mayor’s Office and with the humanitarian and local institutional organisations present. It should be noted that Action Against Hunger’s work is carried out within the framework of its Country Programme supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 


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