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Haitian migrant dies in Panamanian hospital, not from COVID

A Haitian woman from a migrant shelter in the inhospitable province of Darien, on the border with Colombia, died in a public hospital in the capital, although it is ruled out that it was due to coronavirus. This death is added to the recent death of an infant of Brazilian nationality staying in another camp in Panamanian territory.

The National Migration Service of Panama reported on Wednesday that the woman died in the Santo Tomás hospital due to an infectious disease that caused kidney failure. She had previously been in a migrant camp in the community of La Peñita, where hundreds of migrants have complained that they do not receive basic hygiene and food and demand that they be allowed to continue their transit to North America.

Santiago Paz, a local representative for the International Organization for Migration, said Thursday that the woman was taken to the hospital at the end of July and admitted. “It is not that the migrants died in the Darien, or in the immigration reception stations, but that they were housed and the government authorities transferred them to hospitals to see if they could save their lives,” Paz told The Associated Press.

The death of the Haitian migrant joins that of another infant of Brazilian nationality who died in a medical center at the end of June. The migration authorities reported at the time that the minor died on June 25 from a migrant camp in the province of Chiriquí, on the border with Costa Rica. The boy and his mother had been among the migrants in a camp in La Peñita and were transferred to a camp at the other end of the country to alleviate overcrowding and provide better conditions.

The announcement of the woman’s death came on the same day that a judge ordered that eight Haitian migrants remain in jail awaiting trial accused of setting fire to tents that stored medical supplies in the La Peñita camp.

Four other migrants facing charges were released on the condition that they report to authorities twice a week.

The uncertainty and frustration among migrants who wish to continue their transit to North America has increased due to the fact that they have been trapped between the Panamanian borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are about 2,000 migrants in government-run camps in Darién and another 500 in the Planes de Gualaca camp in Chiriquí. Most are of Haitian nationality, but there are also Cubans, Africans and people from the Asian continent.