PANAMA CITY (AP) — The number of child migrants who crossed the treacherous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has spiked, the United Nations Children’s Fund said Friday.
UNICEF said that in May 2021, 500 children were detected crossing on the jungle trail. But in May 2022, that number rose to 2,000.
The fund estimates that about 5,000 children have crossed the Darien Gap so far this year. Plagued by wild animals, swollen rivers, rough terrain and thieves, the gap claims many lives.
Jean Gough, the UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said “right now, it is the middle of the rainy season, and our teams on the ground are seeing a massive increase in boys, girls and adolescents risking their lives and crossing the jungle in the worst climatic conditions.”
The overall number of migrants crossing the land bridge between South and North America doubled, with about 32,000 crossing so far this year, compared to 16,000 in 2021.