Young migrants crossing the Darien Gap on pace to rise by 34 percent in 2024: UNICEF

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The number of minors crossing the treacherous jungle between Colombia and Panama known as the Darien Gap is on pace to rise by 34 percent to reach 160,000 this year, the United Nations’ Children Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

The migration of mostly US-bound kids through the Darien Gap represents “a prolonged crisis,” UNICEF said in a statement, adding that current data points to record child migration in 2024 for the fifth consecutive year in the dangerous stretch of jungle.

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More than 30,000 minors have already trekked through the area in the first four months of this year, up 40 percent from same period last year. Around 2,000 of them were unaccompanied or otherwise separated from their families.

“The Darien Gap is no place for children. Many children have died on this arduous, dangerous journey. Women have given birth while en route, bringing new life into the world in the most challenging of circumstances,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban is quoted as saying in the statement.

Children account for a fifth of all people crossing the jungle, he added.

In 2023, a record-breaking 520,000 migrants made the same journey.

Earlier this month, voters in Panama elected Jose Raul Mulino as president, who will take office in July and has pledged to shut down the migration route.

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