SOS Children’s Villages’ Response to the Refugee Crisis

Submitted by Boyd McBride, President and CEO, SOS Children’s Villages Canada.

Today, we mark World Refugee Day. United, we stand to support refugees – those who must flee their home because of violence, war and natural disasters. There are over 60 million refugees in the world, over half of them are children, and this number unfortunately continues to rise. Child and youth refugees, especially those that have been separated from their families, need special protection, and have been a priority for SOS Children’s Villages in our key response efforts.

Below are just a few of the efforts SOS Children’s Villages undertakes to support refugees and their children:

Transitory Care and Emergency Response

SOS Children’s Villages has provided on-the-ground aid to refugees, internally displaced families and unaccompanied children in at least 14 countries since 2015. Four SOS mobile emergency response teams have helped thousands of refugees on the move, and SOS Children’s Villages has cared for over 1,100 unaccompanied or separated children in SOS Children’s Villages Interim Care Centres and SOS Children’s Villages. It is no easy feat, but our relationship with local partners enables us to act quickly and in coordination with others to help displaced families on their journey.

SOS Child Friendly Spaces (CFS)

SOS Children’s Villages has offered a safe and protected environment to thousands of displaced children at 13 SOS Child Friendly Spaces. These spaces provide children with structured activities that are carried out in a safe, child friendly, inclusive and stimulating environment, designed to provide a sense of security for the children, and help them cope with what they have experienced during the crisis. Children are provided with informal education, psychological care as well as recreational activities such as storytelling and art workshops. This care is immensely valuable and allows children a safe haven from an often very turbulent reality.

Helping Refugees Reconnect

At six SOS ICT Corners, SOS Children’s Villages has helped hundreds of thousands of refugees and aid workers connect through internet services, phone charging opportunities, and other information and communication services.  Often, the ability to connect with family either at home or their final destination can be a needed and empowering motivator for refugees on their journey.

Partnerships for Social Innovation

Through corporate partnership, SOS Children’s Villages has contributed to innovative solutions to improve humanitarian emergency response.

SOS Children’s Villages International and the University of Salzburg are collaborating on a project that uses satellite imagery and geo-technology to enhance aid organisations’ abilities to respond to emergencies, by providing key information such as the locations of roads and water sources.

SOS Children’s Villages has also contributed to the development of a crowd-sourced emergency response application, called ‘Eden’, from Erste Group, that will enable refugees, NGOs and volunteers to share up-to-date and local information to respond to human needs.

Photo curtesy of Ms. Katerina Ilievska. Two children trying to keep warm at the refugee transit centre Tabanovce, Macedonia

Tackling Longer-Term Needs of Refugees

Despite the overwhelming number of people currently displaced, SOS Children’s Villages has seen a decline in the number of refugees arriving at transit facilities. The growing need is to provide longer-term services at camps along the Balkan route from Greece to Central Europe, where many refugees currently remain. In response, SOS Children’s Villages Macedonia is expanding its Child Friendly Space (CFS) to help refugees living at the Tabanovce transit centre, where hundreds of people have taken shelter since national borders were closed to new migrants earlier this year.

Throughout the world, SOS Children’s Villages has pledged to protect the rights of children; to provide practical support for vulnerable families displaced from their homes; to form partnerships lending our expertise in child care to government agencies and other non-governmental organisations; and, when required, to deliver alternative care for unaccompanied and separated children.

SOS Children’s Villages is there to speak up on behalf of children, provide a platform for young people to express their opinions, and call on authorities to redouble efforts to find long-term solutions to ensure that families can stay together and that refugee and migrant children are not deprived of their childhood.

Call to Action

To learn more about what SOS Children’s Villages is doing to respond to the refugee crisis, and to contribute to our efforts, click here.

About SOS Children’s Villages Canada

SOS Children’s Villages works in more than 130 countries to support families and help children at risk grow up in a loving home. In a world filled with poverty, violence, and injustice, the greatest victims are often children. For more than 65 years, we have worked with partners in each community to either help families care for their children or to provide an alternative, for instance an SOS family, in which the love of a carer is essential. Everything we do is based on the best interests of the child, and each has an individual development plan. We focus on the care, health, education and general development of each individual.