US President Donald Trump is sending more than 5,000 military troops to the US border to prevent a caravan of migrants and asylum seekers from entering the country.
The roughly week-long assignment is expected to cost more than $35 million and the caravan in question is hundreds of miles and weeks away from arriving. Further, most of the people in the caravan are expected to leave before making it to the US border. And despite claims that the caravan would be violating US law, they’re seeking asylum, as conceived by international law, through the proper channel: coming to the US and requesting it.
The focus on border security, however, obscures larger humanitarian issues of whom the caravan comprises and why it was formed in the first place.
The majority of the people in the caravan come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and are fleeing violence, political instability, and extreme poverty.
Most of the caravan member are from Honduras, which is one of the poorest countries in the world.
As Al Jazeera recently reported, the Hondurans in the caravan feel they have no choice but to migrate. Opportunity and income are nearly nonexistent in some parts of the country, making it hard to obtain food and other essentials needed to live.
A shantytown in the city of San Pedro Sula has limited access to water, electricity, and medical care, and the local economy has dried up, all but driving people to leave their homes and former livelihoods behind, Al Jazeera reports.
The caravan walked about 30 kilometers yesterday. They were greeted by the town with food, water and a movie.— Paola Mendoza (@paolamendoza) October 31, 2018
Kids were finally able to laugh as Coco played on the big screen.
I’m headed to the caravan tomorrow. I want to tell the real story of their resilience + their power. pic.twitter.com/XoAgjDNizK
Throughout the country, more than 66% of the population lives in poverty, and 20% of people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day, according to the poverty advocacy nonprofit the Borgen Institute.
The country has the highest murder rate in the world and the violence of criminal organizations destabilizes whole towns and cities.
The economy, meanwhile, is moribund and roughly 15% of the working population is unemployed.
Hunger is a regular problem for the 1.5 million people who go without food for periods of the year, according to the Borgen Institute. Food security is an even bigger problem in rural areas, where 49% of people suffer from malnutrition and stunting affects 34% of children.
Stunting is when children, especially in their first 1,000 days, either don’t receive proper nutrition or get illnesses like diarrhea that strip them of nutrients, preventing them from growing properly. As a result, they often experience lifelong physical and mental deficiencies.
On top of all this, Honduras is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, which are becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.
Changing precipitation patterns are also undermining farmer’s ability to grow crops, according to the Guardian.
Read More: 300 Children, 400 Women
“It didn’t rain this year. Last year it didn’t rain,” Jesús Canan, a member of the caravan, told the Guardian. “My maize field didn’t produce a thing. With my expenses, everything we invested, we didn’t have any earnings. There was no harvest.”
“It wasn’t the same before. This is forcing us to emigrate,” he added. “In past years, it rained on time. My plants produced, but there’s no longer any pattern [to the weather].”
Canan, who left behind his wife and three kids, is not trying to sew violence and discord in the US, as many pundits claim.
He’s just trying to feed his family.