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25.11.2016 - News

It’s getting cold in Switzerland…

And it’s getting really cold in the Balkans. Among the 6,400 refugees stranded in Serbia, a thousand of them are sleeping outside or in abandoned buildings in Belgrade city centre. Falling temperatures – close to or below zero at night – led to an increase in medical and shelter needs amongst refugees and migrants.

Meanwhile, the Serbian authorities published an open letter on 11 November stating that provision of humanitarian aid to refugees outside the formal accommodation centres is “no longer acceptable”.  At Terre des hommes (Tdh), what we consider “not acceptable” is to leave children without proper assistance and protection – even when they stay outside of the official facilities.

Active in the Balkans since 2015, we have set up a dedicated space for children and mothers in Belgrade City with the help of our local partner Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre (NSHC). We organise recreational activities for children, offer emergency counselling and legal advice to anyone who needs it, and distribute basic necessities including hygiene and baby items.

In the past two weeks, we have helped about 260 children and more than 200 women in our Mother and Baby Corner. “Children in the corner are playing with puzzles, learning to count up to 10, as well as learning words in Serbian and English,” says Danijela Korac Mandic, NSHC’s project coordinator. Besides, 615 children and teens participated in recreational activities organised by our animators in Miksaliste, a community centre for refugees.

Thanks to our Mother and Baby Corner, our team identifies people  with urgent needs. Last week, we helped a pregnant woman see a doctor after she spent the past four months without any medical check-up. “We also had fathers coming to the corner for diapers, as women and children stayed in the camp due to cold weather to which they are not used to,” adds Danijela Korac Mandic.

Children drawing their story

A member of our team worked with three Afghani boys (12, 14 and 16 years old) traveling alone. Through a drawing, they explained how they arrived in Serbia all the way from Afghanistan. While drawing, they described what they went through and how they felt during their trip.

“They set off from various cities in Afghanistan. Their journey through Iran is marked with mountains through which they walked for 40 hours. They went through Turkey on a truck and boarded a bus to Istanbul. In Bulgaria, the police officers intercepted them and beat them up. The youngest showed scratches on his head. They put the three kids in a closed camp for one month (the cube with lines up and down). The three boys then moved to an open camp from which they arrived to Serbia. The boys were travelling for almost four months.” reports the member of Tdh team.

Our work in Serbia is vital, especially during the winter. Our Mother and Baby Corner is the only service for mothers and babies provided in Belgrade central area. You can make a donation to help our work continue.

Photo credit: ©Tdh