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Panama: The Migratory flow has greatly increased
24th June, 2022- The first few days here I was a little startled by what I saw, especially with the huge flow of people. I have been in Panama for about four weeks now. In the project we provide assistance to migrants who arrive in Panama after crossing the Darien jungle from Colombia. We work in a tent in the Migrant Reception Centre in San Vicente, near Metetí.
But let's start from the beginning:
Arriving in Panama I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to find here thanks to a good pre-departure induction. The first few days, I mainly spent observing what was going on: how my colleagues worked with the patients and with each other. I tried to follow their example and fit in. Above all, I didn't want to be rude.I knew I was going to be working with an international team and that I had to be more aware of myself then I would have been in Spain, both because of cultural and language differences. For example, there are words that don’t mean the same thing in all varieties of Spanish and therefore can lead to misunderstandings.
Suffering is omnipresent
The migration flow in the Darien has greatly increased. Today we are seeing more than double the number of people we were seeing a month or two months ago: some 600 to 800 people arrive every day. From what I see, most of them are Venezuelans. It is very shocking to see people going through this situation.
"Today we are seeing more than double the number of people we were seeing a month or two months ago: some 600 to 800 people arrive every day"
The project I work in was set up primarily to provide adequate treatment for people who have suffered sexual violence. Often, the first step is to recognize the subtle signs that a person has suffered sexual violence. Our teams then offer initial medical treatment and discussions with psychosocial staff.
It's hard to tell someone: You must find your own way tonight
The work in the field is difficult. Our resources are limited and at the same time we see enormous needs. It is frustrating to only be able to help in some respects. Because people are in transit or also because of limited resources, sometimes we don't have time to tend to all their medical problems. Also, everyone lacks dry clothes or shoes, especially the children.
Sometimes they even ask me where they can sleep at the station. The living conditions in the camp are difficult; there are only a few covered areas where you can spend the night in a relatively dignified way. But if it's already full, I have no answer - I must tell them that they have to find their own way tonight. And deep down I know it will be one of the worst nights of their lives again. It saddens me deeply and makes me angry.
The contact with my family and friends in Spain helps me deal with the emotions that inevitably arise in a context like this, they are my biggest support.
A real team
One thing that impresses me is the associative profile: I like the fact that here every person, every patient's voice, and every staff member matters.
"I like the fact that here every person, every patient's voice, and every staff member matters"
There is no hierarchical classism in the project, as I have experienced in other jobs as a nurse in Spain, for example. I like that here we are working in a relationship of equals. So, I am well set in the team already and look forward to the next months with great curiosity.