The UN Children's Agency (UNICEF) is increasing psychosocial interventions for children in the Mexico migrant march since discovering many of them are finding it difficult to engage in play and other recreation, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guteres.
The spokesman told reporters at a regular briefing here UNICEF found "many children traveling with the migrant caravan are showing signs of anguish and psychosocial distress. In certain cases, children are expressing fear of violence or separation from their families, while other children are finding it difficult to engage in play and recreational, organized activities by UNICEF staff."
"The agency and its partners are quickly scaling up its support for psychosocial interventions to reach these children in need," he said "Psychosocial support can help lower the impact on children of having to abandon their homes and endure grueling travel conditions."
Children traveling with the caravan have been subjected to a range of possible stressors, said UNICEF, headquartered here.
The suspected cause includes not only leaving home and their loved ones and playmates behind but "uncertainty about the journey, extreme and sudden changes, loss of routine, physical exhaustion, dehydration and illness," UNICIEF said.
"Some children may also have been exposed to traumatic events in their countries of origin such as gang and gender-based violence, or separation from their families," the agency said. "Any of these factors could negatively affect the physical and psychological wellbeing of children, and cause toxic stress if left unaddressed."
It said psychosocial support can help lower the impact on children of having to abandon their homes and "enduring grueling travel conditions."
UNICEF renewed calls on all governments to "prioritize the best interests of children in the application of immigration laws and procedures, to keep families together, and to find alternatives to immigration detention of children."
The UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR) says the caravan of migrants heading from Honduras and Guatemala to the United States -- once described as consisting of more than 7,000 people -- and now in Mexico City numbers about 4,700 people.
Officials in Mexico City have provided tents and other shelters, UNHCR said, as more, smaller "caravans" arrive. Some 4,000 asylum petitions are being examined by the Government of Mexico.