Central America Annual Report 2019

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a humanitarian organization that operates according to the Fundamental Principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence and has the mission of protecting the life and dignity of the victims of armed conflicts and other situations of violence and of providing them with assistance. The ICRC endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening international humanitarian law (IHL) and universal humanitarian principles. The ICRC has Permanent Missions in San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, Guatemala City and Managua, which work in coordination with the regional delegation for Mexico and Central America, located in Mexico City.

In the spotlight:

Migration and Internal Displacement: An Uncertain Journey

By Jordi Raich, Head of the Regional Delegation for Mexico and Central America, ICRC

Heirs of War: Isolation or Reintegration?

By Ariane Tombet, Head of Mission ICRC Nicaragua; Kian Abbassian, Head of Mission ICRC Guatemala; Olivier Martin, Head of Mission ICRC El Salvador; Alexandre Formisano, Head of Mission, ICRC Honduras


he ICRC works closely with the National Red Cross Societies of the Central American countries, and they coordinate their activities. Its main activities in the region are aimed at preventing human suffering caused by violence and focus on responding to the needs of:

Humanitarian situation:

In northern Central America, specifically in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, organized armed violence remains a problem, and the levels of violence and homicide in these countries are among the highest in the world.

Violence, added to constraints on access to education, health care and other essential public services and the lack of economic prospects, continues to be the main cause of displacement and migration. Violence drives hundreds of thousands of people every year from their homes in search of a better life. It permeates practically every aspect of people’s day-to-day lives, and the physical and psychological toll of this is all too evident.

Health-care personnel and teaching staff are well aware of the consequences. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to forced recruitment by armed groups, the progressive deterioration of the social fabric and the lack of education and employment opportunities.

el salvador

In El Salvador, projects are carried out with several partners to promote the social inclusion of young people living in areas affected by violence. CC BY-NC-ND/CICR/L. Ortiz

Migrants, including unaccompanied minors, face the same kind of risks as people living in areas affected by violence. During their journey, they often lose contact with their families and have little or no access to basic services. Tighter immigration policies in transit and destination countries force many migrants to take more treacherous routes to avoid detection. Migrants detained by the authorities are sometimes deported to their home country without the chance to apply for international protection or before they receive a decision from the authorities on their application for asylum or protection on humanitarian grounds.

Thousands of people remain without news of family members who are missing as a result of migration, the armed conflicts of the past or current situations of violence. The services in place to assist families in the search for their loved ones and to address their multiple needs are inadequate, mainly due to limited local capacities and the lack of national and supranational mechanisms for information exchange and humanitarian assistance. A major challenge in Central America is interstate coordination, particularly in the search for missing migrants.

With regard to the situation of people deprived of their liberty, prison overcrowding, partly due to delays in the justice system and the lack of alternatives to imprisonment, continues to be a serious concern. This situation exacerbates the generally poor conditions in prisons and means that inmates have limited access to health care.

ICRC Priorities in Central America:

The ICRC implements and supports a wide range of programmes and activities in Central America to protect and assist vulnerable people, thereby mitigating the humanitarian consequences of violence, and to promote respect for national and international rules and principles. The ICRC works very closely with the region’s National Red Cross Societies, institutions and authorities, local actors, civil society organizations and other humanitarian organizations. Our priorities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for 2019 are to:

  • meet the basic needs of migrants and internally displaced people and take steps to ensure that States fulfil their obligations in this respect more effectively;
  • help young people and the most vulnerable members of communities to deal with the consequences of armed violence, by strengthening their coping mechanisms and resilience and increasing access to health care and education;
  • promote processes aimed at searching for and identifying people who have gone missing as a result of armed conflict, other situations of violence or migration;
  • improve support and assistance aimed at addressing the needs of the families of people missing as a result of armed conflict, other situations of violence or migration, especially the right to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones;
  • strengthen regional coordination and information exchange mechanisms for the search for people missing as a result of migration;
  • guarantee that the conditions of detention and treatment of young people and adults deprived of their liberty are humane and conform to international standards;
  • strengthen the involvement of the authorities, the armed forces, the police and the general public to improve support for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and promote greater respect for humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law.

El Salvador

1,800 free phone calls
were provided for the families of migrants and deportees.
250 people received assistance
in the form of food, shelter and/or transport in cases of displacement caused by violence.
60 members of committees of relatives of missing persons
received training to strengthen their technical capacities in search processes and psychosocial support and participated in international events.
132 forensic specialists from the IML
were trained by consultants in the identification of human remains and in forensic odontology and photography as part of regional exchanges promoted by the ICRC.
124 basic forensic files
were completed by IML personnel, following the recommendations of the ICRC, and linked to the process for the identification of human remains.
15,000 people deprived of their liberty
held in 10 places of detention benefited from ICRC activities and follow-up in the course of 18 visits.
More than 150 SRC volunteers
took part in training on risk mitigation in service delivery.
Around 90 nurses attended awareness sessions
on the psychological effects they face when treating victims of violence.
More than 20 doctors
received advanced technical training in managing trauma cases.
272 people
were trained in international humanitarian law and international human rights law
6,200 inhabitants
including students, young people, parents and teachers, in areas seriously affected by armed violence in Ciudad Delgado/Apopa benefitted from the project Opportunities and Social Inclusion (OIS).
2,500 young people
participated in activities aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, social inclusion, resilience and culture (music, dance, plastic arts, etc.) in these communities.


30,000 free phone calls
were provided at 10 assistance points, enabling migrants to contact their families and thereby helping to prevent disappearances.
9,000 medical or health advice consultations
were provided by the Guatemalan Red Cross (GRC) with support from the ICRC.
70 migrants who had suffered amputations
received comprehensive assistance under rehabilitation programmes.
6 shelters for migrants
received medical supplies, and one had infrastructure improvements carried out.
More than 550 bodies
of victims of the internal armed conflict were given a proper burial with support from the ICRC.
470 families received assistance
with legal administrative procedures to claim compensation from the State.
2,000 missing persons cases
were included in the databases.
128 tombs were constructed
for the burial of unidentified migrants and victims of the armed conflict with a dignified and culturally sensitive approach.
13 public events
were held in memory of the missing.
37 children who had disappeared during the conflict
were reunited with their families, with the support of the ICRC.
• 90 children and adolescents whose relatives went missing after migrating
received scholarships to continue their studies.
960 students
took part in socio-educational and recreational activities relating to conflict resolution and resilience building.
523 people were trained by the ICRC
in psychological and psychosocial care.
More than 300 detained children and adolescents
received visits from ICRC personnel.
• 135 members of the national civil police force and 56 members of the armed forces
received training on the rules and standards governing the use of force in law enforcement and on IHL and other standards and principles.
221 military officers from the region
participating in peacekeeping operations attended courses on IHL and human rights promoted by the Guatemalan army at the CREOMPAZ training facility.
2,340 psychological consultations
and social support or medical care for 276 victims of armed and sexual violence were provided in collaboration with the GRC.


34,600 migrants and deportees
received humanitarian aid from the ICRC and the Honduran Red Cross (HRC).
29,000 free phone calls
were provided for the families of migrants and deportees at 4 assistance points run by the HRC in Omoa, La Lima, Belén and Choluteca
2,600 migrants
received assistance from the HRC on health matters with support from the ICRC.
300 people displaced by violence
received humanitarian assistance.
124 returning migrants
received treatment under the rehabilitation programme for returnees with physical disabilities, which included the provision of 44 prostheses and 2 orthoses.
700 basic forensic records
were incorporated with guidance from the ICRC.
550 relatives of missing migrants
received psychosocial and mental health support at difficult moments, specifically the collection of repatriated remains, notifications and the taking of DNA samples.