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1 December 2015 – Unpredictable border restrictions and harsh weather are compounding the hardships and challenges for refugee and migrant children and women who now account for more than half of all arrivals by sea.

From the beginning of 2015 until November, over 876,000 people arrived across the Mediterranean on European shores. The proportion of women and children has continued to rise since the summer. In June, it was 27 per cent children and women; in November it increased to 52 per cent.*

To minimize further risks and suffering, Unicef is rolling out winter preparations and contingency plans to adapt to a rapidly changing situation.

“So far, the European winter has been relatively mild but that is changing. Our biggest worry now is that the harsh winter weather and unpredictable border restrictions will leave thousands of children in limbo, at risk of flu and respiratory illnesses,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, Unicef Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe. “But warm clothes, scarves and baby socks are not enough. Children on the move have lived through war, deprivation and hardship; now they need stability, protection and support.”

Unicef has already started to distribute winter clothes, children’s footwear, blankets, hygiene kits and equipment to weatherproof and heat all Unicef-supported child-friendly spaces in the countries with the highest number of children on the move: Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and, soon, Slovenia and Greece.

Within its winterization activities, Unicef has made contingency plans to respond to the evolving needs of children and women and to sudden changes in the pattern of migratory routes – in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Romania, as well as in Kosovo (UNSCR 1244).

Unicef is working with UNHCR and the Red Cross to scale up existing networks of child-friendly spaces and mother and baby centres into Children and Family Support Hubs to assist and protect children and their caregivers with a range of measures such as legal aid and restoring family links.

* Hellenic Police/UNHCR 30 November 2015


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Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

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