Bosnia and Herzegovina

Families at EU border in desperate need of help

An increasing number of families with children are seeking refuge in mountains and forest areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both children and parents are affected by trauma, illness and physical injuries – and they are in urgent need of food, medical care and warmth to make it through the winter.

They have fled war-torn and poverty-stricken countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Bangladesh. In search of safety and security for their children, thousands of families have come to Bosnia and Herzegovina, neighboring Croatia, where many of them are facing violent and humiliating pushbacks as a response to their attempt to cross the border.

Bruised and traumatized, families and unaccompanied children are being sent back to a life in abandoned buildings, in camping tents, or under tarpaulins in the forest and mountain areas adjacent to the Croatian border. Winter is approaching, and the night frost is coming soon.

Single mother: "We need food, blankets and warm clothes"

Zahra, 29, and her two-year-old son have fled the Taliban in Afghanistan. They came to Bosnia and Herzegovina two months ago and now live in an informal tent camp in Velika Kladusa, near the Croatian border.

"Our lives here are difficult. There are a lot of people in the camp and very poor conditions for a normal life. We need food, blankets, and warm clothes. Our kids don't even know what fruit looks like anymore. DRC has given us medical care and medicine. This is very important to us, especially to our children. Right now, the hardest part is knowing that it's about to get really cold," Zahra says.  

Increasing number of families in urgent need of help

The Danish Refugee Council is present in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thanks to strong support for our work in the country, our outreach teams are able to drive out to many of the affected families daily, with emergency aid in the form of food, water, blankets and winter clothes, and our medical professionals provide approximately 200 service calls monthly, including treatments for illness, infections and injuries.

Lille Barn I Telt DRC Medarbejder E Mail

However, over the past few months, more and more families with under age children have entered the country. Some of them are Afghan families who fled the Taliban takeover earlier this year.

All parents know how difficult it is to have sick children under normal conditions. But imagine that they are also hungry, and thirsty, and cold. And that you live in a foreign country in a tent in the woods...

Sanja Dželalagić, Project Team Leader, DRC

“Many of the children residing in outreach locations are malnourished and sick. They urgently need medical care, food, and warmth," says Hector Carpintero, country director for DRC Bosnia and Herzegovina. He stresses:

“Therefore, it is vital that we reach out with sufficient aid for the children before the frost sets in. But as of right now, I am sad to say that we don't have the resources to help them all safely through the winter.”

Crucial to reach the children before the frost sets in

Winters are harsh in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Velika Kladusa, where many of the refugee families live, daytime temperatures in November are 7-11 degrees Celsius, whereas the nighttime temperature reaches only a few degrees. In December and January it will get even colder.

“Right now the temperature is dropping, and around the turn of the year we can expect freezing temperatures. That's why we're working hard to scale up our efforts for families with children," says Hector Carpintero.

The increased number of families in need of help makes it necessary to create a special outreach pediatric team with the resources and expertise to meet the needs of the children.

"We urgently need to employ a pediatric specialist and an emergency worker who can seek out the families in the forests and mountain areas and respond to the needs of medical care, food and warm clothes. In order to help the families get by and the children survive the coming winter, this pediatric team should be up and running very soon," says Hector Carpintero.

You can help us create the special pediatric team while providing vital help to parents and children fleeing war:

... We are doing everything we can for these families, but there are so many, and it is impossible to reach them all with sufficient help.

Sanja Dželalagić, Project Team Leader, DRC