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Guatemala's DNA Donation Drive to Identify Missing Migrants and Persons

In a groundbreaking initiative, Guatemala's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the National Crime Laboratory of Guatemala (INACIF), launched a media campaign on July 11 aimed at encouraging the relatives of missing migrants and persons to donate DNA samples. The heart of the campaign lies in the hope of providing closure to countless families whose loved ones have disappeared while journeying north towards the United States. This humanitarian effort focuses solely on non-criminal purposes, aiming to harness the power of science to bring solace to families left in uncertainty.

Every year, thousands of Guatemalans embark on a perilous path north in search of economic opportunity and refuge from poverty and violence. However, this journey is fraught with dangers, and many have gone missing, their fates unknown to their distraught families. This unprecedented campaign seeks to fill this void of information and offer a possibility of closure.

The process for this mission is centered around humanity and compassion. Family members are encouraged to provide their DNA samples voluntarily at INACIF’s facilities all around the country. The collected samples will then be used to generate a forensic DNA profile, which will be uploaded to Guatemala’s national DNA database system to search for matches with unidentified bodies found along the migration routes. If no match is found within Guatemala’s database, authorities can share these DNA profiles with the United States or other countries in Central America. Once a match is found, the family will be informed, bringing an end to agonizing waiting periods. Importantly, all data gathered during this initiative will be strictly confidential and used only for this humanitarian purpose.

This collection campaign is unique in that it is supported by extensive media outreach efforts, the aim of which is to reach as many Guatemalans as possible, especially those in communities where migration rates are high. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and INACIF, leveraging a range of platforms, will utilize TV spots, radio broadcasts, billboards, and social media advertisements to raise awareness about the initiative and encourage participation. A strong emphasis will be placed on educating the public about the purpose, process, and privacy measures to quell any fears and reassure them about the non-criminal nature of the campaign. Advertisements will run in both Spanish and local Mayan languages.

In these times of uncertainty, this pioneering campaign serves as a beacon of hope for those families left in limbo looking for their missing loved one, and as a model for a new application of forensic DNA databasing.

See coverage of this campaign at the links below:


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