8 September 2015 – Women and children seeking refuge in Europe continue to pass through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia in growing numbers. Nearly 10,000 people, approximately 40 per cent of whom were women and children, were registered crossing into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at Gevgelija from Greece between 1 and 6 September. More than 7,720 people were also registered crossing into Serbia through Presevo over the same time period.
Yet the actual number of women and children reaching the reception centres in both countries is likely to be double the reported figures, as many families travel onwards without being officially registered.
Since June of this year, more than 64,000 people have been registered at the reception centre in Gevgelija, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, while 89,161 people who have expressed their intention to seek asylum have been registered crossing into Serbia during the same period.
For refugees who have entered Serbia and registered their intent to seek asylum, they are given 72 hours to complete the process. Most of them continue their journey by bus north to the capital city of Belgrade, then further on to Hungary, and finally to western or northern European countries. Many are fleeing violence from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unicef and its partners continue to expand humanitarian services at reception centres in the two countries. In Gevgelija, Unicef has been very quick in addressing the immediate needs of women and children, including providing water and age-appropriate food as well as toys. It has also established several child friendly spaces, where up to 50 children at a time can play and benefit from psychosocial support and women can rest and take care of their babies. Three 10,000 litre water tanks collapsible for safe drinking and washing water are being installed.
On the Serbian side of the border at Presevo, Unicef has established a child friendly space, equipped with educational materials and toys. It also offers recreational and educational activities, which are beneficial for the physical and emotional wellbeing of the children on the move through Serbia. Parents will shortly be provided with basic counselling related to child health and nutrition, hygiene and safety issues. Additional child friendly spaces will also open soon in Belgrade and the town of Kanjiza, near the Hungarian border, for refugees and migrants on the move through Serbia.
Unicef in Serbia has also been supporting the health authorities to define guidelines for infant and young children feeding and produce information for lactating mothers. Unicef stands ready to provide additional support with infant and young children feeding, sanitation and hygiene, if needed.
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By far the largest number of refugees are from Syria. In the past three months, 80 per cent of refugees crossing the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have come from Syria
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