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Mexico’s growing number of scarred children

Drug-related violence in Mexico has lead to the deaths of nearly 30,000 people over the last four years and killings are on the increase. At the current rate, it is estimated that by the end of 2012, the total number of deaths will have reached around 75,000. And the casualties cannot simply be measured by the statistics of those killed. The cost also includes a growing number of children who are being left scarred by the violence.

The exact number of children who have lost at least one of their parents to drug-related violence is not recorded by the Mexican government or by any independent organisations. But Gustavo de la Rosa, a lawyer who works for the Human Rights Commission in Chihuahua state, has looked at the statistics for the city of Ciudad Juarez, which lies close to the border with Texas. If men aged between 18 and 35 have an average of 1.7 children, the 5,000 murder cases in the city would produce around 8,500 children without a father. If this were to be extrapolated on a national level, the number would be around 50,000. Any single-parent families created by the rising spiral of violence have to deal with the situation themselves. Many mothers find themselves living within extremely constricted means.

One such woman is Marisol, mother of five-year-old Bryan, who recently walked on his own to the offices of a woman’s shelter in Ciudad Juarez. Bryan came to tell Irma Casas, who works at the shelter, that his mother was “in a bad way”. Marisol is drinking heavily from depression. This is because Bryan’s 23-year old mother had become a drugs war widow for a second time, after her husband who was involved in narcotics was shot in the head by a hitman. The gunman didn’t care that this low-level trafficker was parking his car at the time, with all the family, including Bryan’s baby sister in the car. The trauma of seeing the murder has already affected Bryan, though Irma Casas is not aware of anyone taking care of the boy’s psychological needs or checking his attendance in school. And as far as she knows, Bryan’s mother is not receiving any help either.

Casas worries about the long term impact on society, with thousands of children growing up emotionally scarred from the violence. With poor education standards and the stranglehold of the drugs gangs in certain areas, there is little hope that new generations of youngsters won’t be sucked into the drugs industry. So unless more is done to provide support for affected children like Bryan, it is not hard to imagine that when the boy grows up, he too will become a pawn in the drugs war and potentially end up as another murder statistic, like his father before him. 

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