Migrants making the crossing from northwest Colombia into eastern Panama often face brutal violence, and risk injuries from crossing the dangerous Darién Gap.

It takes between four and 10 days of walking to migrate north, crossing through the Darién jungle, South America's only land route heading north. People face extreme violence, with reports of people being robbed, beaten, raped, or even killed.

MSF teams are working in the migrant reception centre in San Vincente, in eastern Panama, providing medical and mental healthcare to people on the move.

Our activities in 2022 in Panama

Data and information from the International Activity Report 2022.

MSF in Panama in 2022 In 2022, Médecins Sans Frontières provided healthcare to migrants crossing the Darién Gap, a remote area of jungle on the border between Colombia and Panama.
Panama IAR map 2022

The number of migrants travelling through the Darién Gap increased dramatically during the year, with nearly a quarter of a million people recorded to have made the crossing. Despite attempts to obtain permission to work at the arrival points on the Panamanian side of the border in 2022, our teams were only permitted to assist people at San Vicente and Lajas Blancas migrant reception centres – where migrants are transferred by the authorities after having crossed the Darién Gap. This delay can be problematic, especially for cases of sexual violence, as it’s crucial for patients to receive medical care as soon as possible to ensure proper emergency treatment.

The vast majority of those who crossed the Darién Gap in 2022 were Venezuelans, who decided to leave other Latin American countries where they had settled and move north towards Mexico and the US, in the hope of finding safety and better opportunities. Many people made the perilous journey with their families, including elderly relatives, young children and pregnant women. 

Depending on the route, crossing the Darién jungle can take up to 10 days, and is extremely dangerous. The terrain is treacherous: there are steep cliffs, and the rivers are subject to flash floods. We have heard many accounts of people who have died by drowning, or in falls. Migrants are also vulnerable to attacks by criminal gangs who ambush them in the jungle.  

Our teams worked with the Ministry of Health to offer medical care and mental health support to the many victims of violence and sexual violence, including children. Many victims of sexual violence have no access to medical care within the critical 72 hours needed to ensure effective treatment. Throughout the year, we continued to publicly advocate the need to open safe migration routes, and called on governments in the region to take measures to protect people on the move.


in 2022
Migration in the Americas
Central American Migration

Barriers don’t deter people making their way to the United States

Project Update 23 Sep 2022
San Vicente migration centre
Central American Migration

Emergency healthcare and protection needed as more people cross to Panama

Press Release 19 May 2022
Lajas Blancas Immigration Reception Station
Central American Migration

“The Darién Gap is as dangerous as ever”

Voices from the Field 6 May 2022
Turquesa River

Violence and danger for people crossing Panama’s Darien jungle

Interview 19 Nov 2021
Bajo Chiquito
Central American Migration

COVID-19 forces thousands of migrants to cross perilous jungle from Colombia to Panama

Project Update 5 Aug 2021
Central American Migration

Robbed, raped, beaten: safe migration routes urgently needed between Colombia and Panama

Press Release 9 Jun 2021