Newly opened Child-Friendly Spaces in Serbia

Since the beginning of 2015 up to the 23 of September, 137,520 persons registered in Serbia, predominantly originating from refugee-producing countries as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. A constant flow of around 5,000 refugees and persons likely in need of international protection moves through Serbia trying to reach Western European countries. There is an increasing number of families with small children, pregnant women, the elderly and the sick.

Bearing in mind that young children and their mothers are among the most vulnerable refugees and they are in need of special attention, UNICEF and its implementing partner Danish Refugee Council opened a Child-Friendly Space in Belgrade on 22nd September in close partnership and thanks to the valuable support of the Serbian Government and the City of Belgrade. This activity is part of a wider and integrated DRC Serbia response to the rising concern about the overall situation of the refugees in the parks close the bus and railway stations in Belgrade.

The Child-Friendly Space was also visited by UNICEF World Ambassador Mr. Novak Đoković who was deeply touched by the difficult situation these children are in and glad they can spend at least a bit of time in a safe place like the Child-Friendly Space and get all support they need.

The Child Friendly Space offers mothers relevant information on their rights and on protection issues, as well as advisory support about child health, nutrition, and hygiene and safety measures. This information is crucial for parents in strengthening their safety and well-being during their stay in Serbia. The intervention also provides an opportunity for the identification of the most vulnerable children, referring them to relevant services if needed and ensuring adequate action is taken.

"The Child-Friendly Space is equipped with educational materials and toys and books where children can engage in recreational, educational and arts activities which are beneficial for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Having their children cared for will bring much needed relief to parents after long travels,” said UNICEF Representative in Serbia Mr. Saint-Lot.

"This space will contribute bringing a bit of joy and happy moments to children. We wish mothers to feel our support and friendship, sustaining them in these difficult moments" said DRC Representative in Serbia, Marina Cremonese.

Another Child-Friendly Space was opened by UNICEF and DRC three weeks ago in Preševo One-Stop Refugee Centre.

A week later, the actor Orlando Bloom, visited the centre in Preševo, stating among other things:

“What I’ve seen is just a fraction of the arduous journeys undertaken by child refugees and migrants. It is truly disturbing. Imagine the despair that drives families to leave their homes. 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,” said Orland Bloom.

Read also the story of a 12 year old Iraqi refugee girl, residing in the Child-Friendly Space in Belgrade - told to the Washington Post.

Danish Refugee Council Serbia is highly dedicated to provide needed support torefugees and persons likely in need for international protection who are currently in Serbia. DRC is intensively engaged in shelter and wash interventions aiming at improving the reception conditions in the various recently opened Refugee Aid Points in the country, health care, protection including child protection, information dissemination, provision of food and NFIs and planning winterization support.