Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homes in Central America out of fear of violence, extortion and trafficking. With gangs threatening families who try to flee, many choose to leave their home countries entirely and seek asylum in a neighboring country.
Sadly, many children have made the perilous journey alone. These unaccompanied children are the most vulnerable refugees – they have witnessed horrific violence and faced extreme risk.
Violence in San Salvador and surrounding areas is displacing thousands of people from their homes. Gangs are threatening extortion and blackmail, forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their groups and sexually assaulting or trafficking women and girls. Gangs in El Salvador control specific neighborhoods, or “zones.” Crossing between these zones—even children going to school—can be considered a betrayal, punishable by death.
Fact: Between 2006 and 2016, more than 71,000 people became internally displaced in El Salvador—meaning they were forced to flee their homes, but continued to live within the borders of El Salvador.
Similar to El Salvador, Honduras struggles with gang violence throughout the country. These gangs often target schools, specifically teachers, which forces many educators and students to flee.
In Honduras, UNHCR has placed an emphasis on protecting vulnerable populations, specifically women and children. They work with local women’s organizations to combat sexual and gender-based violence, and support local schools as they develop strategies that mitigate risks. By protecting schools and teachers, children will be able to maintain their education.
Fact: There are currently 3.7 million children out of school worldwide. In Honduras primary and secondary schools are approaching max capacity, with up to 50 students per teacher. With more educators fleeing in fear of extortion and violence, an entire generation of children risk missing out on an education.
The situation in Guatemala is one of the most challenging in Central America. Many Guatemalans have been displaced due to gang violence. Some have been forced to flee their homes but remain in the country, while others have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Guatemala is also a transit country, where displaced Central Americans from other countries pass through as they move north. Some Central Americans even seek asylum in Guatemala because they believe it is safer than their home countries.
Fact: As Guatemala becomes a country of refuge for more and more Central Americans, UNHCR is working to help the government of Guatemala expand their asylum capacity and offer greater protections to refugees, asylum seekers and people on the run.
How can you help…
Every day, hundreds of people in Central America flee their homes in search of safety. These are children, women and men who are threatened by violence in their neighborhoods and can no longer live freely. Your contribution can help provide protection, shelter and support for Central Americans as they journey to safety.