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Doctors Without Borders Reports Migrant Rape Epidemic Against Women and Kids on Trek to US Border

Hundreds of thousands of migrants are flooding through the Darien Gap
Hundreds of thousands of migrants are flooding through the Darien Gap. (Image credit: CBN News)

Thousands of migrants, whose final destination is the U.S. southern border, risk their lives walking through the Darién Gap, a nearly 63-mile stretch of the jungle located between Colombia and Panama that is known as one of the most dangerous places in the world. 

People who have made the six-day hike down the treacherous trail have reported being subjected to robbery, kidnappings, and rape. 

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports their medical teams this year treated 397 victims of sexual violence, many of them children after they successfully crossed into Panama. 

"How can you survive five rapes?" a Venezuelan migrant in tears asked the MSF team. The woman's name was withheld for security reasons.

Like many migrants, she chose to cross the Darién Gap. On the way, she said she witnessed repeated episodes of sexual violence.

"We crossed the jungle looking for a better future—not for our lives to end," the woman said. "A snake does not end your life. Your life is ended by the men inside the jungle who rape and kill."

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slider img 2The woman is just one of nearly 460,000 migrants who have crossed the Darién Gap this year. That number is up from the record 250,000 migrants who made the perilous crossing in 2022.

As CBN News reported in April, the number of children traveling through the gap has risen 700 percent this year. 

Sexual violence in the Darién Gap is increasing, according to the MSF which bases its evidence on the number of victims the organization has treated in Panama. 

In October alone, MSF teams assisted 107 survivors, including 59 people in one week—which equates to one incident of sexual violence occurring every three hours. Three of the rape victims were children aged 11, 12, and 16, the organization said

As horrifying as these numbers and stories are, the MSF said they believe the situation is largely under-reported due to the stigma and the fear of reprisals. 

"Not all people who experience sexual violence receive timely attention due to the stigma against victims surrounding this form of violence, threats from perpetrators, lack of recognition of forms of sexual violence, and the fact that people do not feel safe asking for help," said MSF medical coordinator Carmenza Gálvez. "In addition, there is the fear that reporting the crimes may delay their journey north."

The MSF reports that 95% of the victims they have treated are female. Those who tried to defend the women have been severely beaten or killed. 

"Some young men were also beaten and thrown onto the ground for trying to defend the women," a Venezuelan woman said. "They killed a boy in front of us with a shot to the forehead."

Many victims have told the MSF teams that armed men are kidnapping groups of migrants, forcing the migrants to hand over all of their money. It's the cost, the bandits tell the people, of passing through the gap. 

CBN News has traveled to the Darién Gap over the last few years to witness the massive migration through the treacherous terrain. Many of them never make it out alive.

Last September, we observed what was once one of the most remote and pristine jungles on planet Earth is now an environmental disaster. Trash litters banks of the river that locals once depended on for their water. The bitter irony is that now, in a place that gets a dozen feet of rain each year, the indigenous tribes have to import bottled water.

Three hours upriver, we came to the last village before reaching the Colombian border. The scene is apocalyptic.

Thousands of migrants arrive each day. More than six times the village's original population. There's nowhere to sleep and no adequate facilities for the crush of humanity dragging in after six days in the jungle.

Despite the toll of human misery, the numbers just keep rising.  

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