Started Working in Panama
Direct Beneficiaries & Program Participants
(Women & Girls)
Indirect Beneficiaries & Program Participants
Since 2009, RET has directly supported more than 105K direct beneficiaries in Panama, 47% of them are vulnerable women, and indirectly benefited more than 1 million beneficiaries. RET also supported the opening of 20 facilities throughout 38 projects focused on Protection (including Child Protection and Gender-based Violence Prevention and Mitigation), Education (including Basic and Primary and Tertiary Education), Disaster Risk Reduction ( including Management of Disasters and Natural Hazards, and Safety in School Settings); Peace Stability & Transition (including Peace-building and Conflict Resolution) and Youth Development.
The Situation in Panama
According to UNHCR statistics ( 2019), there are 2,542 recognized refugees in Panama, of which 1,700 are refugees of Colombian nationality and a backlog of 13,500 pending applications ( 2019). This figure continues increasing due to several factors such as the high influx of refugees from the Colombian population impacted by the perpetual armed conflict in Colombia; the steady increase of Guatemalan, Salvadorian and Honduran asylum seekers in the country, and the significant increase in the number of Nicaraguan and Venezuelan applicants due to the political situation in both countries. Moreover, the Cuban migrants in transit who enter through Darién, on the border with Colombia, and apply for refugee status as an alternative for regular stay, while continuing their journey to the United States. Moreover, Panama faces a growing wave of discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes/actions from public officials and host communities due to the steady increase of foreigners.
The most vulnerable families arrive without resources or support networks; access to health, education, food, and housing is a real challenge. Emergency humanitarian assistance has proven to have a positive impact in closing the gaps that prevent families from accessing these rights and, in turn, reduce the effect of displacement.
Since 2009, and within a comprehensive response framework, RET provided humanitarian assistance to help people of interest ( Refugees, and Asylum Seekers) with basic needs, such as food & nutrition, health (medicines, medical exams), shelter, and provided technical assistance and capacity building programs to government officials and institutions to help them strengthen their services available to refugees and asylum seekers ( RAS). Government officials’ training was comprehensive of children’s rights and protection, migrant children and adolescents, unaccompanied or separated children.
RET’s interventions in Panama also prioritized “Child Protection.” It provided areas such as prevention of child labor, psychosocial support of children and adolescents in emergencies, disaster mitigation, and human mobility. RET established “Child-Friendly Spaces(CFS)” and offered psychosocial care for children and adolescents in Darien (Panama – Colombia Border). RET also provided institutional strengthening to state officials to improve services to migrant, unaccompanied or separated children and children in need of international protection; moreover, RET assisted them with the improvement of national policies on child protection. Furthermore, RET provided Psychosocial support for refugee women and established support groups for the participation and articulation of Sexual and Gender Violence(SGBV) with partners and agencies of the United Nations, and provide legal support to users regarding their asylum application process and SGBV.
Youth Development was amongst RET’s main focuses in Panama.
Since 2009, RET supported youth development through a process that involved life and soft skills training, livelihoods, violence, and bullying prevention, promoted youth participation, and networking, and advocated issues of concern to youth and their rights. RET has extensive experience in promoting and supporting youth development and meaningful participation at the community level to identify and address their needs. By providing youth with training, mentorship, and the space to be creative. The following years were a consolidation of a vision to strengthen young people’s participation and organization into groups, strengthening their capacities to meet their social change agents’ aspirations. During 2010-2015 a regional vision was consolidated in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela, where RET implemented a multi-sectoral service approach to target youth and their families. Within this framework, RET promoted youth participation and youth agency through local youth-led groups. Four countries actively designed, implemented, and led a regional campaign to end xenophobia and discrimination. These youth networks have organized their local campaigns under the slogan “What Unites Us!” Young people who are members of the socio-cultural networks have taken on leadership and to mobilize their communities. They have been innovative in using social media, street theatre, and artworks, alongside more traditional awareness-raising mechanisms. They have taken advantage of public spaces and coordination with humanitarian organizations, public entities, and youth networks. Working with youth has always been one of RET’s primary commitment in Panama. RET implemented a three-year regional program for and with displaced and refugee youth in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, and Costa Rica. RET organized recreational activities and celebrated thematic days to promote refugee youth’s successful social integration into the local communities.
RET has promoted inclusive and safe educational community environments for vulnerable children, adolescents, and youth in Panama, allowing them to face the effects of crises, violence, and disasters since 2009, with particular attention given to young people with disabilities.
In terms of education, RET facilitated access to formal and non-formal education programs, including assistance for the legalization of educational documents granted abroad. RET worked on a comprehensive toolbox to follow up in school, implemented dropout prevention strategies, and delivered school kits, uniforms, educational materials, and assisted RAS to cover enrollment and foreign fees to access tertiary education. RET implemented awareness-raising campaigns to prevent discrimination and provided teacher training covering inclusive approaches to teaching, bullying prevention, and psychosocial practice in school settings. RET also supported vocational education in association with the University of Panama and its adult education programs.
RET supported government institutions in developing and implementing inclusive programs and promoted people with disabilities’ participation within their disaster risk management frameworks. RET provided young learners with disabilities with the skills needed to mitigate and overcome disaster risks within the school environment. The paradigm drove RET to seek the inclusion and active participation and engagement of persons with disabilities and acknowledged their specific capabilities and not only their special needs.
In collaboration with the Panamanian Institute for Special Training (IPHE), RET developed different approaches to mainstreaming inclusive practices in DRR within the education sector. Consequently, RET experienced running a successful, inclusive school safety project in Panama to teach students with disabilities how to manage the risks associated with natural disasters. It was one of the first projects in Panama to integrate disaster risk reduction and management practices into public schools to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities. This accomplishment led to the winning of the Zero project award for Innovative Practice 2020.
RET aimed to contribute towards the institutionalization of an inclusive, multi-sectoral, and community-based community disaster risk management (CDRM) and first response approach at a local level. Projects within DRR also focused on raising awareness on the effects of the El Niño phenomenon and integrated disaster risk management (IDRM) and information campaigns on how to mitigate and prepare for natural disasters at grassroots associations, youth, family members, and community leaders. Leaders, parents, and caregivers were trained to understand how to prevent, mitigate, and address the effects of natural disasters. RET aimed to strengthen comprehensive disaster risk management capabilities, involving public officials’ training, development of guides and manuals for the implementation of disaster risk reduction measures, and teacher training exercises. Moreover, RET developed educational strategies to incorporate risk management in the Ministry of Education’s planning and budget, following INEE’s Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies. RET also worked to ensure the right to an inclusive and safe education during emergencies for adolescents and youth living with disabilities by strengthening the Panamanian Institute for Special Adaptation (IPHE) capacities.