By: Nicole Watkins, American Red Cross
As winter settles in to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), migrant families are struggling to stay warm. The global Red Cross Red Crescent network has mobilized its teams to deliver warm blankets and winter clothes to the families—alongside other urgent aid such as food, water, and medical care. Daily, the Red Cross feeds and cares for over 3,000 men, women, and children migrating through Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of whom are suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and trauma.
A “transit country” on the migration route
Most migrants entering Bosnia and Herzegovina use it as a “transit country”—staying for a few days or weeks before continuing to other countries. Many arrive with few possessions and clothing that is not sufficient for the cold winter weather in this region. Temperatures drop well below freezing each night putting people at risk of hypothermia. Some migrants have settled in tents near the border with Croatia. Many of the migrants arrive in need of first aid, food and water, and help in locating separated family members.
Since 2015, people from the Middle East and North Africa have fled to Europe in significant numbers due to war, violence and persecution in their countries of origin. Read more about global migration trends at redcross.org/migrationcrisis.
Delivering aid and helping reconnect family members
The Bosnia and Herzegovina Red Cross and the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network have been helping migrants in transit centers since they first began arriving. Teams are providing people with vital relief supplies including food and water, hygiene items, blankets, mattresses, sleeping bags, and clothing. Since May 2018, teams have distributed more than 490,000 hot meals and 310,000 lunch packs. Medical professionals are providing care to those injured during their journeys and to residents of nearby host communities.
Red Cross volunteers are also helping migrants connect with missing loved ones and are distributing awareness information about mines and other explosive remnants of war which are a potential threat along the migration route.
Simon Missiri, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent’s (IFRC) Regional Director for Europe says, “Despite the best efforts of aid agencies to provide food and shelter for migrants, living conditions remain poor and the risk of hypothermia is increasing as cold weather sets in. Without humanitarian assistance, it is difficult to see how many people will make it through to spring.”
A Global Response
The American Red Cross is contributing $150,000 to assist the Bosnia and Herzegovina Red Cross in meeting the immediate needs of migrants entering the country. The funds can help the local Red Cross purchase necessary goods and carry out its daily work with migrants. In total, the American Red Cross has deployed nine disaster responders and contributed more than $1.4 million to support the needs of migrants in Europe since 2015.
In this time of need, many Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have banded together to meet humanitarian needs of people on the move in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Among other relief items, the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent donated food parcels; the Italian Red Cross installed a mobile kitchen; the German Red Cross has sent beds, tents, and a mobile kitchen; the Turkish Red Crescent provided material for emergency shelter; and the Swiss Red Cross is financing a cash transfer program for host communities.
For more information about the American Red Cross’s work around the globe, visit redcross.org/international.