What is crossing the Darién Gap like for migrant women? - Doctors of the World

What is crossing the Darién Gap like for migrant women?


Only children are more vulnerable than women when it comes to crossing the Darién Gap. Many women who attempt to cross are in need; are anxious about whatever fate awaits them; and are exposed to various types of violence. The forest – located between Colombia and Panama – is one of the most dangerous, and one of the longest, migratory routes in the world. 

How does Doctors of the World support these women? 


Doctors of the World’s team stationed at the Las Tecas camp support migrant women who are preparing to cross the Darién Gap, particularly with regard to their sexual and reproductive health. 
Doctors of the World’s medical teams provide various contraception methods that are adapted to the precarious conditions associated with the women’s migratory journey, as well as emergency contraception and voluntary pregnancy terminations. 
 “We don’t know specifically what these women will encounter when crossing, but we hope to be able to make a difference. Of course, there are a lot of things we can’t prevent.” Dr. Camila Carjaval, medical supervisor. 
Many women who cross the Darién Gap do not have access to these means of contraception because of the high costs associated with them in their home countries. And due to lack of access to healthcare services, they often only discover their pregnancy during tests conducted by our teams.

Being pregnant while traversing this 100+ kilometers migratory route towards North America is very demanding and replete with the risk of encountering violence. Doctors of the World respects and supports the individual choices that each person feels they must make. 
With medical and mental health consultations, Doctors of the World conducts preventive actions to combat gender-based violence
In a three-month period, 3,216 migrant women benefited from Doctors of the World’s healthcare services at the Darién Gap: 
473 migrant women received sexual and reproductive health services, including access to family planning 
81 migrant women had individual mental health consultations (695 were part of group consultations) 
957 migrant women were given instructions to sexual and reproductive rights awareness, as well as how to prevent gender-based violence and sexual exploitation 

A difficult journey. An inevitable journey. 

Carolina is from Venezuela. She is among a group of 21 people that includes two children. She is making the journey on behalf of her own children who have remained in Venezuela, as she feels there are no longer any economic resources available for them to continue living there. 
“My motivation is my family and my daughter. They are my driving forces, they’re what pushes me to move forward, to give them a better future. I have prepared myself psychologically, as we have heard a lot of things about the Darién Gap, but it’s through there that we will walk.” 
Rosa hopes to reunite with family members in South Carolina in the United States while her two children have remained in her home country along with their father. She says she prefers traveling in a group because it’s considered to be a safer option. 
“All we ask is that we can get through without encountering any problems. We have set out to do it because we really need to do it.” 
More and more women are crossing the Darién Gap. They are seeking security and a better way of life for their family while risking their own physical and mental health. 
Many women begin their journey unaware of the violence they will encounter, especially upon arrival on the Panamanian side. 
On International Women’s Day (March 8), Doctors of the World calls on the international community not to ignore the gender-based and sexual violence that migrant women experience during their journey, and to denounce non-respect of women’s rights in the Darién Gap. 


Photo Credit: © MdM France