The Darién Gap: “The most dangerous place I’ve seen”

Panama 2021 © Sara de la Rubia/MSF

Much of South America is reeling from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the main reason tens of thousands of people, primarily from Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela, are risking their lives on this dangerous route north. In June, 11,000 migrants entered Panama from Colombia—the highest figure recorded this year despite it being the rainy season, the most dangerous time to cross the Darién Gap. “The Darién [Gap] is like a nightmare, as if you’re in a nightmare with 1,001 demons,” says Óscar, who is from Colombia but was living in Bolivia. “Actually, you find things here that you just can’t imagine.”

In May, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened programs in Bajo Chiquito—the first village that migrants reach in Panama. Since then, our teams have provided medical and mental health care to more than 14,000 people who have crossed The Darién Gap.