Central America

Families and unaccompanied children

are fleeing horrific gang violence.

Photo Credit:  © UNHCR/Jordan J. Hay

Gang warfare and violence have transformed parts of Central America into some of the most dangerous places on earth. In recent years, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (known as the Northern Triangle) have experienced a dramatic escalation in organized crime by gangs, locally called maras.

Thousands of parents have fled with their families and, in many cases, children have made the perilous journey alone. These unaccompanied children are some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees – they have witnessed horrific violence and faced extreme risk. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is on the ground responding to this mounting crisis, but the needs are growing.

In 2016, 388,000 people fled the region – more are expected to flee in 2017. The rapid growth of those forced from their homes is quickly outstripping available resources, leaving many vulnerable children, women and men without physical and legal protection.

A map of the Northern Triangle of Central America.

Current homicide rates are among the highest ever recorded in Central America. Several cities, including San Salvador, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, are among the 10 most dangerous in the world. The most visible evidence of violence is the high rate of brutal homicides, but other human rights abuses are on the rise, including the recruitment of children into gangs, extortion and sexual violence.

From 2011 to 2016, the number of people from the Northern Triangle who have sought refuge in surrounding countries has increased by 2,249%. The majority fleeing are women and children.

UNHCR is helping provide shelter and protection for families on the run, including cash assistance, education programs, temporary accommodation and legal services.

Your help is needed…

UNHCR is facing a severe shortage in the funds needed to keep millions of refugees and displaced people fleeing violence safe. Your gift will help close the gap and give vulnerable children, women and men hope for a safe future. You can be with them on every step of their journey, every day of the year, wherever refugees are in need. Please be generous.



Those whose lives have been uprooted and torn apart by conflict or persecution, UNHCR exists to help them. This is the UNHCR story.