Surviving sexual violence in the Darién Gap

Panama 2021 © MSF/Sara de la Rubia

In 2021, the number of people risking their lives to cross the Darién Gap, a treacherous, roadless, 60-mile stretch of jungle connecting Colombia with Panama, has spiked. Not only is the crossing physically grueling and risky, but people also experience being attacked, robbed, and sexually assaulted on the route. Lis, a Venezuelan migrant who recently travelled through the Darién Gap, shares her story of surviving sexual violence. “They attacked us three times,” she said. “The first two times nothing happened, but the third time something did happen. This was when they abused… everything.”

Between May and August, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated 105 women who had been sexually assaulted. MSF is reiterating its demand that the governments of Colombia and Panama establish safe alternative routes between the two countries and deploy the necessary protection mechanisms in their territories to prevent more needless death and suffering.