Help Needed for Refugee Children in Europe

Save the Children has begun assessing the needs of refugee children on the Greek Island of Lesvos. Photo by Anna Pantelia for Save the Children.
Save the Children has begun assessing the needs of refugee children on the Greek Island of Lesvos. Photo by Anna Pantelia for Save the Children.

With more people around the world forced out of their homes than any time since World War II, Save the Children has launched a Child Refugee Crisis Appeal.

It aims to protect homeless children and their families fleeing conflict, wars and persecution in the Middle East and Africa in unprecedented numbers. Hundreds of thousands are risking death seeking refuge in Europe.

“Every day, more and more traumatized children – including many children who have seen their homes destroyed and their loved ones killed — are now streaming into Greece, Serbia and Hungary in hopes of ultimately finding safety and relief in Germany and other European countries,” said Save the Children president and CEO Carolyn Miles.

“These children have been on the move for months. They are sleeping in the open or in public places, suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition and are highly vulnerable to exploitation and harm,” Miles noted.

“The seemingly endless wars and conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have reached a tipping point – many families see no alternative but to flee. We are appealing to the public to help us help these desperate children by contributing to our Child Refugee Crisis Appeal fund and adding their names to our petition for urgent action to address the crisis.”

Nearly half of the 19.5 million registered refugees globally – out of a total of 60 million displaced people — are children and youth, and their numbers are growing dramatically due to the ongoing conflicts, especially in Syria.

The aid agency says it has provided extensive support for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria in the last four years and is now exploring ways to help protect refugee children as they move toward Europe.

Save the Children recently began a rapid needs assessment at informal camps located on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios and Kos, where thousands of refugees are living in informal camps.

The agency plans to help coordinate a protective environment for children in the camps while also setting up emergency shelters and distributing basic hygiene items and baby kits.

“Besides young children, pregnant mothers are especially at risk in these camps,” said Miles. “Imagine trying to give birth while on the run.”

In the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Save the Children has set up mother-baby help centers near the city’s main train and bus stations that serve as major gathering points for refugees.

The centers provide hygiene and food supplies for mothers and their children and offer parents a safe space to use the hygiene items. The agency also plans to provide support for mothers and children in one of the large “informal” refugee day-camps in Belgrade including a safe space for children to play.

To meet the growing crisis Save the Children has joined other humanitarian groups in calling on the United States and European Member States to strengthen protections for refugees and to expand quotas for refugees so more can resettle in Europe and the United States.

“As the Obama Administration has acknowledged, The United States has an important role to play in helping Europe respond,” Miles said. “The situation is extraordinary and it calls for an extraordinary response not only from European countries but from the United States as well. The international community must also step up its effort to provide assistance to displaced people and host communities in the Middle East as well as do more to bring an end to the conflict.”

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Rakesh Raman