Children have rights no matter where they are

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Hundreds of migrants walking from Honduras to the US have reached Mexico City. They have taken refuge temporarily in Jesús Martinez Stadium where UNICEF and other NGOs have created child friendly spaces and are providing other services to them. Rocío Nuñez, Media Officer for UNICEF in Mexico, spoke with Vatican News about these services, and how the children are doing.

Children are sick and anxious

After weeks of walking, the children are exhausted, Rocío said. There are many children around the age of 5. One is only 4 months old, and another was born on the march. Many of them are sick and dehydrated. UNICEF is providing basic sanitary, medical and psychological services, including basics, like clean water. High levels of anxiety are notable among the children. “They don’t even want to play with another kid because” they are afraid they will be separated from their mothers.

Child friendly spaces

To help the children feel safe, UNICEF has created “child friendly spaces” for babies, children and adolescents. “Babies can rest, play and have time for themselves instead of thinking about the journey all the time”. There are reading and play sessions for children up to age 12.

Care for Moms

Moms are being taken care of too. They can learn about nutrition and breast feeding and receive “support for this difficult period of their life”, Rocío said. She emphasized the importance of providing psychological support for mothers because children’s anxiety level increases when communicated by their parents. Professionals are also identifying and helping those children and families who manifest signs of having been exposed to violence in their places of origin.

Collaborative effort

Rocío said that UNICEF is working with other NGOs and UN agencies. “This is a collaboration process”, she explained. She continued saying that it is also very necessary that society understand that:

Children are children. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re going. They are children first. This is what needs to be emphasized and understood that they are children. They need solidarity and the protection of their human rights because their rights travel with them. It doesn’t matter if they are Mexican or from Honduras…. They are people with rights.