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Child refugee crisis: News from the frontline

Last week, Hungary announced that it was closing its border with Croatia.

With the Hungary-Serbia border already closed, this means that child refugees and their families who were using Hungary as a passage to their final destinations in Austria and Germany, now must join thousands of other refugees traveling through Croatia to Slovenia.

Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia are now under huge strain, particularly camps such as Opatovac on the Croatia-Serbia border.

What we’re doing

At Opatovac we’re providing warm clothes for children as winter sets in, space where mothers can breastfeed and warm shawls so that they can continue to breastfeed on their difficult journeys.

We’re also the main point of contact for reuniting families and are helping to find safe, dry places for vulnerable people to sleep and distributing sleeping bags and mats to children.

With plans for Opatovac to close, we’ve been highly involved in planning a new camp – making sure that women and children have access to their own showers and toilets.

Opatovac camp save the children
Thousands of refugees walking through the cold night for 17km to reach Opatovac camp.
Photo credit: Isabelle Modigell

Benoit Delsarte, who leads our Balkans refugee response, said the situation for refugees was critical.

“It’s horrendous here, people are walking over the border from Serbia to Croatia at Bapska in the cold and rain.

“Lots of families are being separated there because women and children are being prioritised and put on buses to the Opatovac registration camp. We’re helping with the care and reunification of separated children with their families.

“We’re concerned about a range of emerging health risks.

Opatovac Camp Save the Children Refugees
Croatian police help young mother of two with cancer on to a bus at Opatovac Camp Photo Credit: Isabelle Modigell

“Walking 17km in the rain from the border to the camp and then queuing for hours in the freezing cold as they wait to be registered is putting a huge strain on people’s mental and physical health and increases the risk of hypothermia.

“Tents are not suitable for winter inside the camp meaning vulnerable families are sleeping on wet ground without ground sheets.

“The rain is creating mud and while the camp does have toilets and handwashing points, there are so many people that sanitation is becoming an increasing challenge. We are now concerned there may be potential outbreaks of diarrhoea.”

“The refugees we are seeing have risked their lives to escape war zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and are exhausted after travelling for weeks. All transit countries and EU nations must work together to provide a safe and secure passage with adequate food, water and shelter – especially now as the weather has turned and winter is setting in.”

Opatovac Camp Save the Children refugees
Two refugee brothers share a chocolate milk during a cold night at Opatovac camp Photo Credit: Isabelle Modigell

Please donate today to help us continue to help child refugees and their families on their journey.

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