“What I’ve seen is just a fraction of the arduous journeys undertaken by child refugees and migrants,” Bloom said in a press statement. “It is truly disturbing. Imagine the despair that drives families to leave their homes. I am truly impressed by UNICEF’s rapid response to the crisis. I visited the child-friendly spaces that allow children to have a childhood even if it is just for a couple of hours each day. These children are not images on the screen. They are real people in real need.”
UNICEF Serbia has partnered with the Danish Refugee Council to establish two child-friendly spaces, both equipped with educational materials and toys. One is located in the town of Presevo, close to the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the second is in the capital city of Belgrade. The children and their caregivers are exhausted from their long journeys and most of them have experienced some kind of trauma.
Child friendly spaces are safe havens for them – to rest for a while and feel like children again. UNICEF has also established two mother-and-baby spaces in the same locations, where lactating mothers can be supported to breastfeed their babies and infants, and young children can be provided with age-appropriate feeding, before they continue their perilous journeys into and across Europe.
UNICEF has distributed information on exclusive breastfeeding and on landmines, as many families are then travelling through Croatia, which still has landmines and unexploded ordinance left over from the Balkans war in the 1990s.
Almost 150,000 people have so far expressed intent to seek asylum in Serbia. One in four is a child.