Adapting to Change: IOM Faces COVID-19 Pandemic by Strengthening Outreach Tools

A migrant uses MigApp at a shelter in Juarez (México). MigApp is IOM’s global app for migrants, and a quarter of its total users are in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Photo: IOM

San José - The COVID-19 emergency has brought many changes, but issues affecting migrants haven’t disappeared. To keep providing support and services at a distance, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean is rewiring existing outreach tools: MigApp and a network of Information Hubs. 

MigApp is IOM’s global app for migrants. A quarter of its users are in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Now, with the pandemic, digital repositories are crucial. 

A new section in Migapp’s Medical tab highlights official health recommendations to prevent the virus’ spread.  News and Migration Tips sections are updated to capture changes across countries—such as border restrictions, COVID-19 hotlines or migration status changes.  

MigApp also features mini surveys, which allow IOM to run simple questions to better understand the issues affecting migrants. Specific questions about COVID-19 have shown that 30 per cent of users in Mexico and Panama don’t know protocols in place to address spread of contagion, while virtually all of those responding in El Salvador were aware of border restrictions put in place in that country.  

Meanwhile, Information Hubs provide safe and accurate information about migration procedures, services for migrants and risks of irregular migration. Currently there are 32 Information Hubs located in eight Mesoamerica and Caribbean countries. The hubs are supported by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the Department of State of the United States.  

With the COVID-19 emergency curbing face to face encounters, this changes the workflow and capacities needed. IOM staff have received online training in remote psychological first aid and migrant data protection. Three webinars held in May built capacity with over 100 information hub staff and partners. 

Pamela Varela, from the Municipality Informative and Transactional Hub at Upala (northern Costa Rica), was grateful for the training received. “Psychological first aid training in remote mode is a tool of great importance, which strengthens care provided to the migrant populations,” she said. “In this emergency, emotional situations are much more adverse. Therefore, this training provides us with vital support in the care of migrants.” 

For more information contact Tatiana Chacón at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Email:, Tel: +506 86328527.