In 2022, the number of migrants who irregularly crossed into Panama reached record highs. These migrants, mainly from South America and the Caribbean, but even coming from as far as Africa and Asia, transit through Panama primarily in the hopes of reaching North America. They face significant obstacles during their journeys, not least of which is crossing the perilous Darien gap, a stretch of jungle separating Colombia and Panama, where difficult terrain, exposure to the elements, and the prevalence of criminal groups put migrants at risk of illness, injury, robbery, sexual assault, and in some cases, even death.
Since 2021, the Pan American Development Foundation has been operating in Panama to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants both as they emerge from the Darien jungle, and once they reach the Chiriqui region, along the border with Costa Rica. In addition to medical assistance, protection support, and clean drinking water and sanitation, PADF offers emergency psychosocial support to vulnerable migrants, many of whom have anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or other mental health issues related to experiences during, or prior to, their migratory journeys. In this podcast (Spanish), PADF’s Program Officer in Panama, Analisa Algandona, speaks to Tomas Rincon and Luis Carlos Ayala, PADF’s psychologists in the Darien and Chiriqui respectively, about the realities of the migration flow in Panama, challenges to providing psychosocial support in this transitory environment, and how they take care of themselves within this stressful context.
PADF’s work in Panama is made possible thanks to the generous support of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).
Published on July 19, 2023.
Jared (Jed) Hoffman
Regional Director, Mexico and Central America