Budapest/Geneva, 10 December 2018 Thousands of people trapped in Bosnia and Herzegovina desperately need humanitarian assistance ahead of freezing winter temperatures, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Since the beginning of the year, over 23,000 people have entered Bosnia and Herzegovina with the intention to move further into the European Union. An estimated 5,300 migrants remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most of them gathered near the Croatian border where they are effectively trapped by the terrain and closed border crossings. Some are living in tents, abandoned buildings and makeshift camps that will offer no protection against winter temperatures that can drop as low as -15° Celsius.

Simon Missiri, IFRC Regional Director for Europe said: “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.”

The Red Cross of Bosnia and Herzegovina distributes food to up to 3,000 people each day, in six reception centres across the country, but their resources are limited. Staff and volunteers are also distributing warm clothes, sleeping bags and blankets to migrants, the overwhelming majority of whom arrive without winter gear.

IFRC and the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina are appealing for 3.3 million Swiss francs to provide food over 9 months, hygiene kits and other items including blankets and sleeping bags over the next 12 months to about 1,000 people at two reception centres.

“We are concerned that, without concerted action, migrants will suffer a completely preventable humanitarian disaster. But if we act now – and the actions that we are talking about are straightforward and easily achieved – we can provide some protection for migrants and their host communities in need. But the clock is ticking,said IFRC’s Missiri.

Red Cross mobile teams will patrol the area to provide food, blankets and hot drinks, and first aid to migrants in areas outside of the reception centres. The mobile teams will also distribute information on active landmine fields to warn migrants of the dangers of unexploded ordinances. Bosnia and Herzegovina remains the most landmine contaminated country in Europe.

Photos available here.

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Media contacts

In Budapest: Nora Peter, +36 70 265 4020, nora.peter@ifrc.org, @IFRC_Europe

In Geneva: Matthew Cochrane, +41 79 251 80 39, matthew.cochrane@ifrc.org, @mahatmat