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World Vision expands response to growing child humanitarian crisis on both sides of the U.S. border

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Laura Blank

International News Director
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Lauren Fisher

International News Manager
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC (July 11, 2014) — World Vision is increasing efforts in the United States and abroad to assist children caught in the growing humanitarian crisis along the U.S. border. The White House estimates at least 60,000 unaccompanied children will be flooding into the U.S. this year alone — a number that is expected to double in 2015.

“At the heart of the issue are children who have an immediate need for basic necessities both in the United States and in Central America. Many of these children are literally fleeing for their lives from constant threats of gang violence and high levels of poverty in their home countries. We know both sides of the issue need to be addressed for there to be any long-term solution,” said Jesse Eaves, World Vision’s senior policy advisor for child protection.

In the United States, World Vision is working with the churches and community partners at numerous locations throughout the country, including California, Texas, Florida, and New York, to supply unaccompanied children with items such as: clothing, school supplies, and activities for children. The organization is also furnishing cleaning supplies, paper products, and other materials to equip the local centers that are hosting children.

Starting on Monday, World Vision’s Dallas warehouse location will be seeking volunteers to help assemble items for child friendly spaces and get them to partners and children as quickly as possible. More information on open time slots and how to sign up are available on World Vision's U.S. Programs website.

“We have seen tremendous efforts from many local organizations stepping up to help children caught in limbo. Our goal is to come alongside these groups to provide the materials and support they need to help these vulnerable young people while they remain in the United States,” said Phyllis Freeman, World Vision’s director of disaster response in the United States.

In Honduras, World Vision is leading the coordination with other organizations to provide support to the children who have been deported from the U.S. and will be arriving back in Honduras. The organization is working to provide sanitation kits to meet the needs of those returning.

In Central America, World Vision has worked for more than four decades to address root causes like poverty and the threat of exploitation that cause children to flee. At the same time, violence has continued to be a rising issue forcing children to leave their home countries. Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world and the country had to recently shut down its entire child welfare system due to abuse. World Vision is working with the government there as they form their new system.

In a study World Vision released earlier this year, children in several Central American countries spoke about the gang violence and threats they face daily. In fact, the number of people seeking asylum in countries in the region has increased by 435 percent since 2009. In World Vision’s own programming, in El Salvador and Honduras, staff have been forced to scale back some programs and activities back because of the violence.

World Vision continues its work on the community level to address the root causes of poverty — including disaster relief, access to clean water and sanitation, economic development opportunities, healthcare programs, and vocational and leadership training. In El Salvador, World Vision is specifically addressing gang violence with programs like urban and rural children’s clubs to give kids positive role models and a place to escape the violence.

Throughout Central America, World Vision is working with low-income families to improve economic opportunities through family credits for family businesses, vocational training, and micro-entrepreneurial activities for young people.

In addition, child protection is a main focus and incorporated in all of World Vision’s work in Latin America, with groups of parents and community leaders who are being trained to spot child protection issues and advocate for reforms to benefit children on a local and national level.

“We have heard unimaginable stories from many of the children we work with of friends being killed by gang violence or of they themselves being threatened if they do not join a gang. It’s these sorts of situations that leave children and families with few choices besides fleeing to surrounding countries or the United States. This is a complex issue, but one thing we do know – if we don’t address the root causes forcing children to flee in the first place, this will be a problem that only continues to grow,” said Amanda Rives, World Vision’s advocacy director for Latin America.

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About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/press or follow us on Twitter @WorldVisionNews.