EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A U.S.-based church has donated 12,000 face masks to migrant shelters in Juarez, Mexico.

The masks will be distributed to the operators of 15 facilities that house, feed and provide other services for families recently returned from the United States or on their way north fleeing poverty or crime.

“One of the most pressing needs here is (COVID-19) protection. We are focused on migrant shelters and we are starting with face masks — 12,000 now and another 8,000 next month,” said Ulises Chavez, an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northern Chihuahua.

Chavez said the Mormons have donated more than 200,000 face masks to medical providers in Mexico since the coronavirus pandemic started. Now they’re focusing on vulnerable populations.

“We’ll be stopping the spread of COVID-19 with the face masks, but the most important benefit is that we’re showing love to another human being, letting them know that someone cares,” Chavez said.

The Mormons are also aware that Mexican health workers are falling prey to COVID-19 — at least 11 doctors, nurses and nursing aides have died from coronavirus complications in Chihuahua and more than 500 have gotten sick — so they will be donating personal protective equipment to hospitals in coming weeks, he said.

Enrique Valenzuela, director of the Chihuahua Population Council, which works closely with migrant shelters, said churches on both sides of the border have helped the state weather the recent migrant surge.

Principe de Paz, one of the church shelters benefitting from the Mormons’ donation. (photo courtesy State of Chihuahua)

“Since October 2018, we have seen the arrival of a wave of people in a state of mobility,” he said, referring to families from Central America trying to claim asylum in the United States, Mexicans who are deported from the U.S. and, lately, Mexicans being displaced from the interior of the country by rising drug violence.

“Fortunately, churches opened new shelters and made it possible for us (the government) to manage the situation and welcome these migrants in a dignified manner,” Valenzuela said.

At least one COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at migrant shelters so far. Thirteen people have tested positive for the coronavirus in May and June at the Leona Vicario shelter in Juarez.

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