Armed violence in Mexico and Central America continues to cause large-scale suffering
High levels of armed violence in Mexico and Central America continue generating serious humanitarian consequences, visible and invisible, and affect the present and future of thousands of people across the region. So said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), at the launch of its 2021–2022 Humanitarian Reports for Mexico and Central America.
"In 2021, we witnessed forced internal displacement, migration and people going missing. We also continued to see how violence affected communities' access to health care and education. In addition to the visible effects of the violence, such as homicides, there are profound invisible effects: the violence is turning people, families and communities into the living dead," said Jordi Raich, head of the ICRC's regional delegation for Mexico and Central America.
There are no easy solutions, said Jordi Raich, it requires an urgent and decisive actions by governments, civil society and humanitarian organizations in order to mitigate the consequences of the violence, to create more humanitarian environments and to protect the dignity of the people affected.
The ICRC works together with National Red Cross Societies to provide assistance and protection to migrants, displaced people, relatives of missing people, people deprived of their liberty and communities affected by the violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. In Nicaragua, the ICRC visits detainees.
During the presentation of the annual reports, Miguel Ramírez, head of the ICRC's operations in Mexico, called people not to normalize violence: "Thousands of people in the region have felt the pain of losing a loved one to violence. Their stories are published in media or heard around the dinner table, and then forgotten. It happens constantly and it's a sign that we have learned to live with the violence, preventing us from understanding the suffering it is causing to thousands of people and stopping us from looking for solutions."
The most urgent issues for the ICRC in 2021 and for the coming years are: the increase of internal displacement and migration (according to official statistics, in Mexico the number of detained migrants has risen by 68% since 2019, implying an increase in the number of people migrating); people keep going missing (almost 100,000 people are recorded as missing in Mexico); the emergency at the detention centers; the proper and legal use of force; and the compounded risks faced by communities having to cope with climate change, the pandemic and the impact of violence.
"One of the biggest collective challenges of the 21st century is helping communities that are already affected by poverty and violence to be more resilient in the face of climate change. We need to look at this problem head on and find solutions quickly," said Jordi Raich.
Our action in numbers
Last year, the ICRC carried out 62 visits to 43 places of detention (including immigration detention centres in Mexico), benefiting more than 49,000 people deprived of their liberty. We provided health care to 17,631 migrants in ten points of medical assistance run by the Mexican Red Cross and the Honduran Red Cross. It helped family members stay or get back in touch with their loved ones, facilitating over 55,000 phone calls and 38,000 internet connections for migrants, people deprived of their liberty and patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The ICRC found safe accommodation and provided food to 477 people displaced by the violence in El Salvador and Honduras and supported the physical rehabilitation of 168 migrants and others who had become disabled or suffered amputations, by providing prostheses, orthoses, physiotherapy or referrals.
The ICRC —together with National Societies or institutions that receive forensic advice from the ICRC— supported 63 associations in Mexico and Central America that search for missing family members and helped trace 112 people, some found alive, who disappeared in context of migration, natural disaster or violence.
Last year, the ICRC, in collaboration with National Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, produced 47,000 self-care messages and 18,000 infographics that were distributed in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico. Available in Creole, English, French, Kiché, Kaqchique, Mam, Portuguese and Spanish, they were designed to help migrants better know their rights, reduce risks and facilitate access to available services along their route.
In 2022 the ICRC, together with National Red Cross Societies, will continue its humanitarian mission to mitigate the effects of the violence in Mexico and Central America, doing everything it can to relieve people's suffering.
Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting international humanitarian law. It has 20,000 employees in 100 countries around the world.