Ill­nesses on in­crease for mi­grants in Tijuana

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Nation & World - By Wendy Fry TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Sick­ness has started setting in at a big mi­grant camp in Tijuana, Mex­ico, as Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum de­clared a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and asked for fed­eral and in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance for the more than 6,000 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans who have poured into the re­gion in re­cent weeks.

At the Ben­ito Juarez shel­ter in north Tijuana, more than 4,700 mi­grants are in tents and un­der blan­kets that fill sur­round­ing streets.

In­side the shel­ter, Paula Cortes, 21, and her fam­ily hud­dled around 2-year-old Isaac, who lay fever­ish, list­less and cov­ered with blan­kets.

“He’s very, very sick,” his mother said in Span­ish. “I’m too wor­ried right now, but they won’t send a doc­tor in here. They told us to take him out­side to the med­i­cal tent.”

The Of­fice of the Sec­re­tary of Pub­lic Health for Baja Cal­i­for­nia did not re­turn a re­quest for com­ment, but a shel­ter aid worker con­firmed that the only op­tion for the young par­ents is to bring Isaac to a med­i­cal tent set up out­side Ben­ito Juarez to deal with mi­nor med­i­cal ail­ments.

Baja Cal­i­for­nia’s gov­ern­ment re­ported Fri­day that 818 res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions had been re­ported at the camp. The gov­ern­ment said 1,286 gen­eral med­i­cal con­sul­ta­tions were pro­vided to mem­bers of the mi­grant car­a­van.

Gastelum de­clared a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis Thurs­day, ask­ing for more fed­eral as­sis­tance and for in­ter­na­tional groups such as the United Na­tions to help with the crush of peo­ple.

“They have cat­e­gor­i­cally omit­ted and not com­plied with their le­gal obli­ga­tions,” the mayor said of the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment. “So, we’re now ask­ing them and in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian aid groups to bring in and carry out hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.”

An In­ter­na­tional Red Cross tent set up Thurs­day was not present Fri­day af­ter­noon, but there were in- ter­na­tional aid work­ers mak­ing their way around the streets sur­round­ing Ben­ito Juarez, check­ing on refugees camped out in the streets.

On Fri­day, In­gris Aquiles and her 3-year-old daugh­ter, Brit­tany, waited in line for about an hour to get some cold medicine from the med­i­cal tent. The ser­vices are in­tended only for ba­sic med­i­cal is­sues.

Aquiles said of­fi­cials at the tent gave her and her daugh­ter some cough medicine.

“We just have to wait it out,” Aquiles said, re­fer­ring to mak­ing their way to the U.S. “Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has asked us to wait here, so we are go­ing to wait. What else can we do? We have plenty of time to wait.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has threat­ened to close the bor­der if Mex­ico “can­not con­trol the sit­u­a­tion.”

Gastelum, press­ing for more Mex­i­can fed­eral as­sis­tance, stressed the neg­a­tive ef­fects on Tijuana’s econ­omy should the bor­der com­pletely close for days.

Ra­mon Espinosa / Associated Press

A woman washes a girl’s hair Satur­day at a shel­ter in Tijuana, Mex­ico, for mi­grants who trav­eled north with the Cen­tral Amer­i­can car­a­van.

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