How we’re helping in Mexico

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

MSF provides primary health care and psychosocial support at La 72 shelter in Tenosique.
Mexico 2018 © Juan Carlos Tomasi/MSF
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Learn more about how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières provides medical and mental health care to migrants and refugees in Mexico who are on their way north, and to victims of violence in some of the country’s most dangerous cities.

Every year, an estimated 500,000 people flee from the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA)—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—displaced by threats, extortion, forced gang recruitment, and homicide rates that rival those in countries at war. Many have no choice but to undertake a hazardous journey north, risking serious injuries and even death along the way, with hopes of reaching safety in the United States. They continue to do so despite the Trump administration’s efforts to step up deportations and dismantle legal protections for refugees and asylum seekers in the US.

We have teams working on Mexico’s southern and northern borders, and at various key locations in between, offering medical, psychological, and social support for problems faced by migrants and refugees along the perilous migration route from Central America to the United States. Our projects also assist vulnerable local communities and victims of violence, including sexual violence, in Guerrero state and in the border city of Reynosa.

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MSF Projects in Mexico

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Watch this video to learn more about troubles faced by Central American refugees and migrants

Where are the Central American Migrants and Refugees fleeing from?

Thousands of people from the NTCA cross Mexico each year, the vast majority fleeing violence and poverty in their countries of origin. Far from finding security and protection once in Mexico, people on the move face high levels of violence, including kidnappings, extortion, inhumane treatment, abuse, sexual assault and torture at the hands of criminal groups acting with total impunity, especially in cities on the borders. The US government’s zero tolerance policies and restrictions on granting asylum, coupled with an increase in "security" at the border, have only aggravated the crisis for migrants and refugees at the Mexican border.

Although the migratory flows were similar to previous years, in 2018 our teams saw an increase in the number of women, children, and families attempting a route traditionally undertaken mostly by men.

In Tenosique, known to be one of the main points of departure for journeys through Mexico, we provided medical, psychological, and social assistance to increasing numbers of vulnerable migrants and refugees at a migrant shelter known as Shelter 72.

We have a team offering similar services in La Casa del Migrante in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, where each day hundreds of people stop off before continuing north. Most of the health issues we treat are a result of their arduous journeys, such as respiratory problems, skin infections, foot injuries, and trauma from falls. Many of them have also suffered some kind of physical or psychological violence, including sexual violence. In 2018, we began running an additional mobile clinic beside the railway tracks in Coatzacoalcos to care for migrants waiting to board trains. 

To provide medical humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees in Mexico City, we run a specialized therapeutic center for people who have been victims of extreme violence or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment in their country of origin or on their journey. The center offers patients a safe shelter while they receive medical and mental health care. In 2018, we provided 52 patients with a combination of medical and psychiatric or psychological care, as well as accommodation, food, and occupational therapy. In addition, we supplied referrals to other organizations for social assistance, legal advice, and employment to further support migrants and refugees.

Migrants and refugees in Mexico’s Tamaulipas borderlands

In Reynosa, a city that has been racked by violence for more than a decade, we continue to offer medical, psychological, and social care to victims. We run a fixed clinic and deploy mobile teams to several parts of the city, including two migrant shelters. In 2018, our teams also began assisting people recently deported from the United States in a reception center on the border with Texas.

In September, an additional team consisting of a health promoter, a psychologist, and a social worker started working at the reception center for deported people and two migrant shelters in Matamoros, an industrial city on the border with the United States.

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Humanitarian crisis in Central America

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At the end of October, we began providing psychosocial support at La Casa Amar and La Casa Nazareth, two shelters for migrants and refugees in Nuevo Laredo, another of Mexico’s most dangerous cities. Medical care is also available at La Casa Nazareth.

Our work in Guerrero state

GUERRERO: LIVE IN THE MOBILE CLINIC
MSF mobile clinic services in Guerrero include follow-up for pregnant and post-partum women, family planning services, and psychosocial care. Special attention is paid to survivors of sexual violence.
Mexico 2019 © Juan Carlos Tomasi/MSF

We scaled up our activities in the Tierra Caliente, Norte, and Centro regions of Guerrero, where violent turf wars between rival drug producers affect entire communities, leaving them isolated and unable to access medical care. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, we run mobile clinics in 26 communities affected by the territorial conflict between criminal groups. Our teams offer medical, psychological, and humanitarian assistance to victims of violence, as well as treatment for chronic diseases and sexual and reproductive health care.

We have also been providing mental health support and psychosocial care for victims of violence in Ciudad Renacimiento, Progreso, Zapata, and Colonia Jardín, the most violent neighborhoods of Acapulco, since 2016. In December, we reduced our activities to focus on treating victims of sexual violence at Renacimiento hospital, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. However, our team continues to monitor the health situation and is ready to respond to emergencies.

Watch this video to learn more about our work in Guerrero state

Emergency humanitarian aid for Mexico

In January, a territorial conflict forced thousands of people from the communities of Chenalhó municipality, Chiapas, to flee to neighboring Chalchihuitán. We deployed a team of eight doctors and psychologists to provide medical care and humanitarian aid in Mexico through individual and group mental health consultations, and psychosocial support to about 1,000 people.

We also sent an emergency team to assist thousands of migrants and refugees stranded in the border city of Tijuana in December. In addition to medical and psychological consultations, our teams carried out water and sanitation activities to improve hygiene conditions in the shelters.