Volunteer doctors and nurses with the nonprofit A Good Group of People Organization have set up a truck outside a church in Puebla, Mexico, that has turned into a temporary shelter for several hundred migrants from Central America traveling in a caravan.
The volunteers are seeing a lot of migrants with fevers, chills and upper respiratory infections, said Jose Maria Mora, a 28-year-old psychologist in charge of the volunteers.
Infections are easy to spread when people are traveling in buses and sleeping in packed spaces, he said.
The caravan of migrants escaping poverty and gang violence in Central America once numbered at 1,000 people but has dwindled to just over 600 as of Friday. It was headed for the U.S. border until drawing the attention and ire of President Trump. He has responded to this ongoing humanitarian crisis by deploying National Guard troops to the southwest border to keep families like these out.
Doctors are treating a lot of migrants who injured themselves on the route from southern Mexico to Puebla, about two hours south of Mexico City, he said. The worst was a young man who fractured his leg hopping a freight train, known as La Bestia, The Beast, in Spanish, he said.
The volunteers are also seeing a lot of people with stomach ailments, which he attributed less to drinking bad water than to eating Mexican food.
“They aren’t accustomed to the Mexican food which is a lot more spicy and acidic than the food they are used to,” Mora said.
Some of the migrants come with ailments that can’t be seen.
One young woman arrived at the medical truck with her 16-year-old nephew. The boy’s family put her in charge of trying to get him to the United States because gangs in Honduras had targeted him for recruitment.
The woman and the boy were broken-hearted, separated from their families, he said.
“All we can do is just listen,” Mora said.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Anderson Cobach Zacarias is on a thin mattress, and he doesn’t care.
He was busy playing with some plastic toy buses, a smile on his face.
All around, the boy was surrounded by human misery. His mother sat on the same mattress nearby, her back against the wall crammed side by side with dozens of other women and children. They too are lying on dirty mattress and blankets strewn on the floor inside a large room of a church in Puebla.
The church and three other churches have been converted into shelters
Anderson seemed oblivious to the political storm the migrant caravan has ignited between the United States and Mexico as he played with the toys.
His mom said they are from Guatemala and decided to join the caravan on March 25 to escape the poverty and gangs in their town, Escuintla. She said her husband abused her and the gangs had killed many people in her neighborhood.
The caravan, under pressure from Mexico, is ending next week in Mexico City. But the boy’s mom said she hoped to continue on to Tijuana, and after that maybe they would try and cross over into the U.S. and apply for asylum.