Protect Humanity

Publié: 17 décembre 2015 15:58 CET

On 15 November 2015, a group of approximately 1,300 Cuban migrants flew to Ecuador and then travelled by their own means through Colombia to the border town of La Miel, Panama. The National Maritime Service of Panama (SENAN) in the province of Colon mobilized the migrants to Puerto Obaldia in the province of Darien, where they completed a seven-day migratory process. They were then transferred by boat to Colon by SENAN, where Panamanian authorities requested the support of the Colon branch of the Red Cross Society of Panama (RCSP) in assisting with the provision of prehospital care and bottled water. Later, the migrants took public transportation from Colon to Panama City, and then toward the border with Costa Rica.

On 30 November 2015, 800 additional Cuban migrants arrived in Puerto Obaldia. By 4 December 2015, the number had increased to 1,460 Cuban migrants, which has remained largely unchanged to this date. The migrants have been waiting for more than a week to cross into Costa Rica, and they are unable to pay for either food or lodgings due to lack of funds. The migrants are sleeping outdoors in Puerto Obaldía waiting to cross through eastern Panama to Panama City. The most vulnerable people among this migrant population include children, pregnant women and older adults, and the disaggregation of gender information of the number of children, women and elderly is difficult to identify because the population’s demographics are constantly changing.

According to the Panamanian media, 22,000 Cubans have left the island, and it is estimated that up to 13,000 are heading to Panama. Panamanian authorities have given them seven days to legalize their status in Panama, but virtually none of them return to the Immigration Office to update their status. In an attempt to regulate this outflow since Nicaragua closed its borders, the Panamanian Government has restricted the number of people allowed to pass through Puerto Obaldia to 60 people per day, thus increasing the number of migrants in Puerto Obaldía.  The basic service structures of the small rural community of 468 inhabitants have collapsed due to the large number of migrants arriving in the community.

The Red Cross Society of Panama is providing assistance through its branches in Colón, Barú and Chepo. These branches have a broad structure of volunteers, ambulances and vehicles operating to support humanitarian actions.

In addition to its role as an auxiliary to State authorities, the Red Cross Society of Panama is a member of the National Joint Task Force System, along with other actors such as the Fire Department, National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC for its acronym in Spanish), the National Police, the Panama’s National Border Service (SENAFRONT for its acronym in Spanish) and the National Navy/Air Service.

The RCSP has taken the following actions:

  • The Red Cross branch in Colon is working with 20 volunteers and 1 ambulance.
  • On 15 November 2015, the Colon Red Cross branch began providing pre-hospital care to 1,300 Cuban migrants, distributing 1 litre of water per person (1,300 litres of water) and providing tea and cookies.

This situation prompting the Red Cross Society of Panama to file a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) operation to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for immediate relief.

The main objective of the DREF filed by the RCSP is contribute to the health of migrants in the country through health, hydration and hygiene services for 1,000 people.

RCSP has proposed the follow strategy:

Provide pre-hospital care to migrants: They have been providing pre-hospital care to the approximately 1,300 Cuban migrants in Puerto Obaldia. Due to lack of personnel, the RCSP will provide medical personnel from the institution for 30 days to support the health centre in Puerto Obaldía in coordination with MINSA.

Psychosocial support: Two specialists will provide psychological care in Puerto Obaldía, as well as recreational activities for children using the “return of happiness" methodology with the help of two volunteers from the National Society.

Distribution of safe water to 500 families: Pure water purifying sachets will be distributed for 30 days. These will be handed out at distribution points established by the Red Cross Society of Panama in Puerto Obaldía, along with training on their use, which will cover the needs of a group of immigrants in Puerto Obaldia for one week until MINSA and IDAAN can provide further support. Training will be provided to the population on safe water handling and treatment. MINSA, in conjunction with IDAAN will be working on improving the rural aqueduct. The Pure sachets were donated by Proctor & Gamble to the Red Cross Society of Panama for emergency response. The DREF will be used to support the logistics and mobilization of these items to the affected area.

Delivery of personal hygiene kits: Hygiene kits will be designed for use by one person for five days, and different kits will be developed for men and women. The kits will contain at least bar of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, wet towels, alcohol gel and sanitary napkins. The hygiene kits were also donated by Proctor & Gamble to the Red Cross Society of Panama.

Hygiene promotion activities: Training will be conducted on personal hygiene, solid waste management and management of excreta as a complement to Health Ministry (MINSA) activities on sensitizing the community on how to protect itself. The RCSP will develop the key hygiene key messages to support the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), which will build sanitary facilities to dispose of excreta. MINSA and Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems (IDAAN) will rehabilitate the local aqueduct and conduct hygiene promotion activities and water treatment at the household level.