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World Vision to bring emergency aid to refugees

World Vision to bring emergency aid to refugees fleeing to Europe

World Vision is starting emergency distributions in Serbia as the international aid agency steps up its response to help hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe, forced out of Syria by a conflict that has ground on for almost five years.

World Vison’s initial response will be targeted at the most vulnerable on the Serbian-Hungarian border – mothers and children, providing them with the basic family packs of diapers, baby cream and soap, wet wipes, toys, toothbrushes and paste, disinfectant, shampoo, and female personal hygiene items.

Thousands of refugees in Serbia are forced to sleep outside, lacking proper sanitation and surviving on little food.

Aida Sunje, Communications Manager for World Vision Bosnia, spoke to refugees who had managed to reach Belgrade, Serbia. They are often sleeping in the open in parks with many children and babies among them.

Children and families in need

“I miss my bed. I was used to sleeping normally, and now I have to sleep in the park,” says Alimuseneh, 11, whom Aida met sitting on a park bench with his four-year-old brother, Yusef.

Muhammed, a 72-year-old grandfather, sat on another bench with his grandchildren Abdelhabi, aged 5, and Ammar, 1.

“It is very hard,” says Muhammed. “We spent the night sleeping on the ground in the park. We did not have a blanket to cover ourselves; it was cold.”

Syrian refugees told Aida that they lacked many basic things, such as shoes.

“Most of them (shoes) got destroyed during long walks from Macedonia to Serbia,” she says.

Children fending for themselves

About 8,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in Serbia, hoping to cross the border into Hungary; a major entry point for the European Union. In response, Hungary is erecting a 174km razor wire fence along its border.

World Vision is deeply concerned about the number of unaccompanied children that are travelling through Serbia. Many children become separated from their families on the journey, or in some cases, their caregivers cannot afford to join them.

Twelve-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim left Syria with his cousin, Fadi, a physics professor, and Fadi’s family. Ahmed’s family scraped together the money to send him out of Syria.

Says Fadi, “it is cheaper to get a child out of Syria; it costs half of the price of an adult.”

Ahmed’s parents and five siblings are still in Syria. He wants to go back and cries each time he speaks to them on the phone.

Unaccompanied children are vulnerable to child trafficking. Already, there are reports of refugee children being forced into child labour, child marriage and prostitution throughout Europe.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, signed and ratified by all EU member states, specifically say that everybody has a right to seek asylum and that refugee children must be awarded special protection.

The public can donate to World Vision’s response here: www.worldvision.org.nz/syria or on 0800 00 776

ENDS

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