Migrant children in the U.S. lack protection and services needed to ensure their well-being | UNICEF Canada: For Every Child Skip to main content
Publication Date: 2019/06/26

As two-year-old Valeria’s death shows, coordinated action urgently needed to address root causes of irregular migration and keep children safe

Statement from UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore 

NEW YORK, 26 June 2019 – “I am deeply concerned for the well-being of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Having already faced perilous journeys, some children are now being sheltered at facilities that are not equipped to meet the needs of this vulnerable population. 

“Recent reports coming from some of these facilities are grim. Children should not be in unsafe environments that can cause toxic stress and irreparable harm to their health and development. This is a dire situation requiring urgent action and funding to provide children and families with essential services and support.

“It’s hard to fathom this happening in a country with such a rich history as a champion for children in need around the world, particularly for those uprooted from their homes and communities by crisis. By any measure, these ARE children in need – I have met them. 
“This past week, I visited with children and families from northern Central America at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. None wanted to leave their countries, but all felt they had no choice because of the threat of gang violence or oppressive poverty. 

“Some children had already been traumatized by experiences in their countries of origin or along the migration route. 

“The heart-rending photo published just yesterday showing the lifeless bodies of Salvadoran toddler Valeria and her father Oscar on the bank of the Rio Grande is a stark reminder of the perils facing migrants trying to reach the U.S. It is a searing image that should shake each of us to our core.

“UNICEF is already working to expand access to protection, education and other services for migrant children wherever they may be in the region. 

“But countries of origin, transit and destination must also act and implement a coordinated approach to ensure the rights, protection, well-being and dignity of migrant and refugee children. 

“No one country can do it alone. Addressing the root causes of forced migration and the needs of uprooted children require serious commitment, resolve and resources.”


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UNICEF is the world’s leading humanitarian organization focused on children. We work in the most challenging areas to provide protection, healthcare and immunizations, education, safe water and sanitation and nutrition. As part of the United Nations, our unrivaled reach spans more than 190 countries and territories, ensuring we are on the ground to help the most disadvantaged children. While part of the UN system, UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations to finance our live-saving work. Please visit unicef.ca and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For further information:

Emily O’Connor Communications Manager EOconnor@unicef.ca 416 482-6552 x8866 / 647-500-4230