When a few thousand migrants resumed their walk north through southern Mexico Thursday, the chatter of stroller wheels on pavement accompanied the slap of feet. Still-sleeping children slumped as the caravan lurched forward. Others, still drowsy, perched on parents’ shoulders.
The caravan made up of mostly Central American migrants left Tapachula near the Guatemala border on Saturday and roughly doubled in size as it covered the 45 miles (73 kilometers) to Escuintla.
Migrant-rights advocates and aid workers traveling with the caravan estimate there could be 1,000 children among the estimated 4,000 people trudging along highways under a punishing sun.
The scene is reminiscent of larger migrant caravans in 2018 and 2019 that were also full of families with young children. The caravans have offered a less expensive, albeit much slower, way to migrate for families without the money to pay smugglers. They also carry the advantage of safety in numbers.
Laura Benítez with the humanitarian aid organization Global Response Management, said that children account for 40% of those in the caravan that they have given medical treatment to.
“The majority are blisters on feet, chafing,” Benítez said. “The children have some little cuts, scrapes and bug bites. Besides that we’re giving medicine for headaches, muscle pain, also fever and we’re giving (rehydration).” (rehydration solution?)
Irineo Mújica, of the immigration advocacy group People without Borders, estimated there were between 1,000 and 1,200 children in the caravan. “It is urgent that the Mexican government attend to the children,” he said.
Mexico’s National Immigration Institute on Wednesday announced it would offer humanitarian visas to the pregnant women in the caravan. On Thursday, in another statement, the agency said children travelling in the group would be eligible for them.
José Avila Lagos and his wife Yolanda Melgares bought two strollers in Tapachula before setting out because they’re travelling with their three children ages 6, 9 and 15.