Caring for migrants, refugees, and vulnerable communities affected by growing violence

A consultation at an MSF mobile clinic in Reynosa, Mexico.
MEXICO 2017 © Christina Simons/MSF
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Teams have been providing care to patients along the migration routes through Mexico since January 2013. Many of our patients need mental health support due to the significant stresses related to conditions in their home countries as well as on the run.

In 2017, MSF published a special report based on two years of research into the medical needs of refugees and migrants in transit through Mexico. Key findings, based on surveys and medical data, indicated that:

  • 39 percent of patients surveyed cited direct attacks or threats to themselves or their families, extortion, or gang-forced recruitment as the main reason for fleeing their countries.
  • 68 percent of patients reported being victims of violence during their transit through Mexico. The perpetrators of violence included members of gangs and other criminal organizations, as well as members of the Mexican security forces responsible for their protection.
  • 31 percent of women surveyed had been sexually abused during the journey.

In Tenosique, an MSF team provides medical care and psychosocial support to migrants and refugees at Shelter 72. The team also scaled up its assistance for victims of sexual violence in Guadalajara, where levels of violence are particularly high. An MSF team provides care for migrants at the FM4 Shelter, at Casa del Migrante in Coatzacoalcos, and via mobile clinic visits.

In July 2017, MSF opened the Center for Integral Action, a specialized therapeutic center for displaced people who have been victims of extreme violence, torture, and ill treatment. The center can accommodate 28 patients with their families.


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We have expanded activities in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, to provide medical, psychological, and social care in one of Mexico’s most violent areas. A team provides health care at a clinic and makes referrals when necessary. The team also runs mobile clinics in two shelters for migrants and provides medical care to victims of sexual violence, including post-exposure prophylaxis and mental health support.

In Acapulco, MSF has expanded its activities to new neighborhoods and also provides services around the clock at Renacimiento hospital. In 2017, MSF staff treated 200 victims of sexual violence and carried out 2,307 individual mental health consultations. The team also facilitated community support groups and neighborhood activities.

In Tierra Caliente, Guerrero state, rural health posts are frequently closed due to violence, threats, turf wars between criminal gangs, and a lack of staff. MSF has two mobile teams carrying out regular medical and mental health clinics in these areas. Almost 10,000 medical consultations and 1,300 individual mental health consultations were conducted in 2017.

Last year, several states in central and southern Mexico were affected by separate earthquakes, on September 7 and 19, which left hundreds dead, thousands injured, and many people homeless. In response, MSF deployed seven teams across Oaxaca, Puebla, Morelos, State of Mexico, and Mexico City—providing more than 1,000 medical consultations, 674 individual mental health consultations, and 661 group mental health sessions in an intervention that lasted more than two months. Teams also distributed basic survival kits and donated tents to around 200 families.