Holding on to her dreams.

Maria was only six when her big sister Isabel disappeared. They lived in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador – one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Maria’s parents spent years searching for Isabel but she has never been found.

They pulled Maria out of school in grade six when she started getting constant threats from gang members. They were terrified they’d lose her like Isabel.

The fear became unbearable for Maria’s family, so she and her parents fled in the hope of finding safety in Mexico. They left their home, jobs and possessions, taking only the few things they could carry with them.

Families like Maria’s are leaving everything behind and fleeing horrific violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Thousands of children, especially young teenagers, are forced to flee alone. They have already been robbed of their childhoods.

All they want now is a chance to survive.     

Your support can help shelter and protect vulnerable children like Maria fleeing violence in Northern Central America.

UNHCR is ready and uniquely situated in the region to protect and assist them, but needs your support. Today, you can help to provide:

  • Child-friendly shelters where families can find safety and protection
  • Safe spaces for children to learn and play without fear
  • Psychological support for children traumatised by violence and a horrific journey to safety
  • Legal services and information


Maria, 14, was just 6 years old when her older sister Isabel went missing. Soon after, she and her brother were threatened, so her family fled north.  © UNHCR/Jordan J. Hay

Ivan and his family fled Guatemala after his three oldest sons were murdered and his remaining family was threatened. 

© UNHCR/Jordan J. Hay

From heartbreak to hope.

Ivan and his wife have lost three of their four sons at the hands of the maras – the common Central American term for criminal gangs.

Their eldest, just 19, was shot on his way home from work.

Then their 18-year-old son, a promising athlete who dreamed of a professional soccer career, didn’t come home one day. He was found dead in the street with two gunshot wounds.

“We thought they were done with us [after that]...Our next oldest son was 13.
He never turned 14. He was on a bus and witnesses said the maras pushed him off and he was hit by a truck.” 
- Ivan

When their youngest and only living son received threats, Ivan fled Guatemala with his wife and son that same day, escaping with only the clothes on their backs.

We need your help today, to protect these vulnerable families and children. Your gift will provide shelter for families like Ivan’s. Your support will help give people fleeing extreme violence a safe place to live, access to legal services and information, and much-needed psychological support.

UNHCR is working hard to respond to this escalating emergency and protect these children and their families. However, the sheer number of people in need is far greater than the resources available.

Your donation is urgently needed to help protect vulnerable children and families on the run from horrific violence today.


Your donations in action

Elsa’s daughter Violet and son Eduan enjoy learning materials at a shelter for children who are not able to attend school.

Food and long-term shelters that serves three meals per day.

Emily and her three sons, Mateo, 5, Alejandro, 3, and Daniel, 14, fled their native Honduras.

Class time at a day centre for refugee and migrant children.

Safe Places Safe Places Safe Places
Counselling Counselling Counselling
Shelter Shelter Shelter
Protection Protection Protection

Providing Safe Places

UNHCR operates safe spaces for the most vulnerable refugees for child and family support, providing child services, play areas and counselling. Children travelling alone are given special support and safe accommodation while UNHCR staff search for their relatives or carers. For displaced girls, safe spaces in refugee camps are essential for preventing abuse and exploitation. LGBTI refugees are also offered safe spaces to protect them from harm and discrimination.

Providing Counselling

Displacement due to horrific violence, armed conflict, persecution, or disaster puts significant psychological and social stress on children, individuals, families and communities. UNHCR provides counselling to refugee populations to address trauma arising from displacement. These services are particularly vital for survivors of torture and of sexual and gender-based violence.

Providing Shelter

UNHCR provides refugees with emergency shelter — tents, tarpaulins and demountable housing — in the immediate aftermath of displacement. More broadly, we are responsible for site planning and camp management to ensure refugee settlements are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. For those living outside camps, UNHCR funds the rehabilitation of communal shelters, the construction of new homes and rental assistance for those in urban situations. UNHCR also provides materials that displaced people need to build a home themselves under self-help schemes.

Providing Protection

Children and families fleeing violence, war, disaster or persecution can be very vulnerable. UNHCR supplies displaced people with essential items, food and shelter to protect them from having to make dangerous decisions to survive. On a larger scale, UNHCR negotiates safe passage, asylum spaces and humanitarian access, upholding the rights of refugees and minimising the threat of violence, including sexual assault.

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