Gang violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is creating a silent refugee crisis that cannot be ignored.

Australia for UNHCR is calling for your support to provide safe places where children can finally stop running and feel safe.

Thousands of children are fleeing violence and persecution from criminal gangs in Northern Central America, either with family members or alone.

Children are losing their childhoods.
Parents are losing their children.

The maras – organised criminal gangs – are behind the brutal homicides, extortion, sexual assaults and violent robberies that are plaguing Northern Central America.  

As the violence has escalated, the number of people fleeing for their lives from Northern Central America has grown ten times in just five years. Among these numbers is a troubling new trend. The number of children making the treacherous journey alone has doubled each year since 2011. 


The main cause of this alarming rise in children on the run is horrific violence.

“These families are trapped; they cannot go home. The maras are everywhere. They control whole neighbourhoods; they control the school and even the routes children take to school.”
- Francesca Fontanini
UNHCR Mexico

Children are caught at the heart of this crisis, with some as young as five being threatened by gang members or recruited as informants. Older children are forced to join the gangs or risk being executed.

Children fleeing alone, and families with small children, are terrified, traumatised and exhausted. They live every day with the fear that the maras will come for them.

Australia for UNHCR's special appeal, Children on the Run is raising funds to protect families fleeing violence in Northern Central America. 

By supporting this appeal, Australians can help provide safe and child-friendly shelters for these families – somewhere children are protected, where they feel secure enough to laugh and play, and regain some of their childhood.

UNHCR is already on the ground working to protect children and families on the run and deliver life-saving aid including:

  • 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
  • Psycho-education therapy
  • Legal services and information

Your support can help provide essentials like food and shelter, child safe spaces and equipment, legal counsel and psychological care.

UNHCR cannot support the thousands of children and families desperate for a safe haven without your help.

Share this:

facebook twitter

You can help

Make a donation

Every donation makes a real and lasting difference in the lives of refugees.

Organise a fundraiser

Host a bake sale, climb a mountain or do a fun run to raise funds for vital aid.