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Central America & Cuba Bi-weekly Operational Update, 1-15 October 2020

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Operations: Regional context

The number of new COVID-19 infections in the region reached 44,800 in the first half of October, with Costa Rica having the highest number of active confirmed cases (16,324). Since the beginning of the pandemic, Panama has exceeded 120,000 positive COVID- 19 cases, and Guatemala has the highest number of deaths from the virus in the region (3,453). Despite increasing COVID-19 infections, restrictions across the region are progressively being lifted, and economic sectors are reopening.

It is expected that persons of concern to UNHCR can now re-join economic activities and begin to generate income. Nevertheless, vacancies in the formal labour economy are still very limited and dependence on humanitarian assistance provided by UNHCR and partner organizations to persons of concern is expected to continue for the coming months.

Violence continues to be reported, despite the prolonged situations of mobility restrictions and confinement across northern Central America. According to official data, in the first half of 2020, El Salvador registered 1,475 personal injury crimes, 2,339 cases of theft, 609 cases of extortion, 587 homicides and 1,630 missing persons. In Honduras, official figures report over 2,200 violent deaths so far in 2020, 66% of which are related to drug trafficking and territorial disputes among gangs. This figure provides for an average of 9 deaths per day, only one point below that recorded in 2019. In Guatemala, violence against women, particularly femicides and sexual violence are also significant, with 319 women killed and over 5,600 reports of sexual violence to date.

In Guatemala, the government ended the State of Prevention in Petén, Izabal, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jutiapa and El Progreso,that had been decreed for 15 days due to the large mixed movement that sought to travel north. Among those in this movement, 35 people have sought asylum in Guatemala.

UNHCR and partners continue to provide assistance to persons of concern, and to advance community-based interventions to ensure continuity of humanitarian access in prioritized high-risk communities affected by the significant levels of violence in northern Central America. UNHCR, through partners, also continues to monitor incidents of violence which may prompt forced displacement, while coordinating with local authorities to enable timely responses.