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Panama Multi-Country Office: Monthly Operational Update (August 2022)

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Regional Context

Countries under the Multi-Country Office (MCO) in Panama continue to feel the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, and the global burst in energy and food prices. In Guyana, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) conducted an assessment covering 330 health facilities and found alarming gaps in the provision of health care, revealing that 24 per cent of the buildings need urgent structural repairs, 20 per cent lack power, and 94 per cent lack potable water. Less than 50 per cent of the health posts have an ambulance, and hospitals require basic medical supplies or commonly used medications, posing additional barriers to access health services for refugees and asylum seekers.

In Panama, small and medium-sized pharmacy owners opposed a government decree establishing a 30 per cent discount over 170 meds, as their proposal to fulfill the pledge of making medication available at a lower cost, taken after July's national protests. More than 450 small pharmacies closed their doors for several days, stating that the measure could force them to bankruptcy. Most refugees and asylum seekers report that they cannot afford the necessary medical drugs, a situation that worsens for those with chronic diseases.

In Suriname, protests against ongoing government corruption scandals are spreading, while in Cuba the economic challenges due to the fallout from the COVID pandemic continue to affect the island and its population, with extensive electricity cuts and petrol shortages.

From 1 January to August 2022, 102,067 people crossed the Darien border irregularly!. The month of August registered the highest number of people crossing the jungle in one month ever (31,055 people). The top nationalities on the move continue to be Venezuela and Haiti, followed by Ecuador and Cuba. This increase stands in line with the new visa restrictions established across the region, creating higher challenges for governments and other organizations to respond to the crisis.

However, a step forward in terms of protection has been made in Belize, where the Amnesty program was officially launched on 2 August 2022. Refugees and asylum-seekers who fit the eligibility criteria, as well as undocumented migrants residing in Belize, now have the opportunity to apply for a permanent resident status with a path to citizenship, ensuring durable solutions for these vulnerable groups.

MCO Panama requires USD 54.3M to continue to assist, and secure solutions in the subregion.