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The length of the EU’s external border between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia is 923 kilometres. It is strictly guarded, with a restrictive migration policy. As a result, people making their way on land to seek protection in Western Europe often find themselves trapped in Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to official estimates, between 7,500 and 8,000 refugees and migrants were in the country at the end of September, many of them in the Una-Sana Canton on the EU’s external border with Croatia and around the capital Sarajevo.
They often live in wretched conditions. Many camps and centres are overcrowded, the shelters don’t provide enough protection against the cold or heat, the hygiene situation is catastrophic. Large quantities of food and basic essentials are needed, the medical services are overwhelmed by the number of patients. Jointly with the EU, the UN and various NGOs, the local authorities are trying to cope with the situation.
Essential nutrients for children, clean clothes and psycho-social support
Caritas Bosnia-Herzegovina strives to improve the living conditions in four accommodation centres. Caritas Switzerland supports the activities of its sister organisation.
In three centres where many families live, Caritas distributes food parcels and hygiene kits each month. The food parcels include special food for infants as well as fresh fruit and vegetables – and thus supplement the food deliveries from other aid organisations. In a fourth centre, Caritas helps to ensure that an urgently needed laundry can function. This enables more than a thousand persons a month to wash their clothes and prevent hygiene-related diseases.
Caritas also supports two local organisations in running basic social centres. They offer the stranded people a chance to relax, make contacts or borrow games. They also receive psycho-social support.
Winter is approaching. The cold, and the bad weather, will further aggravate the living conditions of the refugees and migrants. Where can they find protection from the below-zero temperatures, where to get a hot meal? Caritas Switzerland is planning additional activities in order to help people keep warm and to make their shelters more winter-proof.
The situation is volatile and unpredictable. In order to be able to meet the most urgent needs of the refugees as effectively as possible, the aid is constantly adapted to local developments. Caritas coordinates its work closely with the local authorities, the UN and other NGOs.