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Supporting Migrants Crossing the Darién Gap in Honduras


April 4, 2024 • 4 min read

An unprecedented number of migrants from Venezuela and Ecuador are attempting to escape economic crisis and political unrest through the Darién Gap, a 100km stretch of treacherous jungle and extremely hazardous terrain between Colombia and Panama. To support local and national governments cope with the humanitarian need, GOAL is working with local partners to support vulnerable migrants arriving in Honduras.

The trek through the Darién jungle is extremely dangerous. Desperate migrants are vulnerable to physical injury, theft, human trafficking, kidnapping, GBV (gender-based violence), and death. The families who make it to the other side are often exhausted, hungry, injured, sick, and traumatised upon arrival in Panama. By then, it’s too late to turn back. These families are extremely vulnerable to harm or exploitation, and the trauma they’ve endured is unspeakable. To reduce the risk to vulnerable families who have crossed the Darién Gap, GOAL is supporting migrants arriving in Honduras with financial and psychosocial support.

Mariaelena’s Story

For the past two weeks, Maríaelena has been travelling with her husband and 11-year-old daughter from Venezuela. One of the main challenges that the family has encountered on their journey is financial extortion and scams. Maríaelena was taken advantage of and forced to pay non-existent fees and ‘taxes’ to cross the border into Honduras, in addition to exorbitant prices for bus tickets. Desperate to escape Venezuela and give her daughter a better life, Maríaelena paid the money and arrived in Honduras with nothing.

Maríaelena’s family was stranded in Honduras for three days, with no money to either continue their onward journey or return to Venezuela. Maríaelena was losing hope until she was approached by GOAL staff in an overnight shelter for migrants. She received financial support from GOAL Honduras, which allowed her to pay for food and transport costs.

Maríaelena receiving support from GOAL staff in Honduras

Sarais’s Story

Sarais has been travelling with her husband and 3-year-old son from Venezuela for the past three months. The family experienced a traumatic incident while traversing through the Darién jungle – they were the victims of a robbery and lost all of their belongings. The most distressing part of the incident, according to Sarais, was not having enough food or money to feed her young son.

When Sarais arrived in Honduras, she was exhausted, disoriented, and did not know how to proceed. Without any money, Sarais and her family were stranded in an unfamiliar country. They began looking for informal work, until they were informed by fellow migrants about the overnight shelter, where GOAL was offering support to vulnerable migrants. Sarais received financial support from GOAL Honduras, and used the money to pay for food and medical attention for her son.

Nelson’s Story

Nelson is a 65-year-old man traveling from Venezuela with his eight family members, including his children and grandchildren. Despite his age and experience, Nelson admitted that he was shocked by some of the situations he witnessed on their journey. One of the most traumatic moments was when the bus he and his family were travelling on overturned on the way from Panama to Costa Rica. Many of the migrants on board the bus were unable to continue their journeys after the accident, but Nelson’s family escaped physically unscathed. Nelson is thankful to GOAL Honduras for the support he and his family have received upon arriving in Honduras.

Nervin’s Story

Nervin has been traveling with his wife and 3-year-old daughter from Venezuela for nearly two months. Nervin and his family had their belongings stolen in the Darién jungle. Once they arrived in Panama, they were forced to work selling water and soft drinks on the side of the road to scrape together enough money to continue their journey. The family was stranded in Honduras for ten days before receiving financial support from GOAL, which has allowed them to purchase the necessities and plan their next steps.

María’s Story

María is a 26-year-old GOAL volunteer who is supporting migrants in her home city of Danlí. Her community has been overwhelmed by the arrival of migrants from Nicaragua, many of whom crossed the Darién Gap in the early stages of their journey. Her motivation lies in her desire to help others. The stories that migrants share with her are deeply shocking, describing them as almost unreal experiences, difficult to comprehend unless experienced first-hand.

“Children are excited when they arrive at our psychosocial space, because it gives them an opportunity to disconnect from what they are going through. Here, they can unwind, play, paint, and have fun. It’s very gratifying for us. But I do feel sad when it’s time for them to leave, because I’m aware that I’ll likely never see the children again, nor will I ever know if they reached their destination.”

María, standing in front of GOAL-supported sanitation facilities for migrants.

Supporting Migrants in Honduras

Unprecedented migration is generating a level of humanitarian need that exceeds the resources of local and national government agencies. Supplies of food, water, shelter, and basic healthcare resources are being exhausted at every point of the journey by the sheer number of migrants exiting the jungle. These migrants arrive in their transit countries hungry, exhausted, financially depleted, and vulnerable to exploitation. Humanitarian actors and local governments must scale-up their operations and work on long-term solutions to address the drivers of migration, which include economic crisis, political unrest, and climate change.

In Danlí, GOAL Honduras is supporting migrants with food, water, sanitation products, dignity kits for women, financial support, and psychosocial first aid to address post-traumatic shocks.

Support GOAL’s work in Honduras with a donation today.