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Mobile App allows rapid emergency response to refugees in the Balkans

SOS staff members distribute aid to children and their families in Serbia
SOS staff members distribute aid to children and their families in Serbia

A new emergency response app pioneered by SOS Children's Villages is improving the ability of our teams on the ground to respond to emergency situations along the refugee route in the Balkans. The app enables refugees to quickly and easily request help and assistance. The trial stage has proven to be so successful that it is now being used by other aid agencies.

Austrian-based financial provider, Erste Group, developed the app with SOS Children’s Villages in response to the European refugee crisis. 

The app, titled Eden, is now being tested along the refugee route in the Balkans. Humanitarian organisations have struggled to access real-time information about the urgent needs of refugees – this is where Eden comes in. Eden enables vulnerable refugees to share pressing information, such as where medical assistance is needed. It also allows organisations to notify others what resources they have available, and to coordinate quickly where the resources should be distributed.

Humanitarian organisations working on the Balkan refugee route have collectively contributed to the development of Eden. Andreas Papp, International Director of Emergency Response at SOS Children’s Villages International, was among the representatives who have provided input to the development of the app. Papp explains that technology is a critical response tool that helps aid to be delivered faster in the areas of greatest need. 

“The context of the refugee crisis is fast evolving and I’m excited to see how we can harness this to improve the coordination, reactivity and quality of services of NGOs working in the field,” says Papp. 

At a glance – refugee facts and figures in the Balkans:

SOS Children’s Villages has been responding the needs of vulnerable child refugees and their families.

  • Approximately 40% of the people stranded in the Western Balkans are children.
  • SOS Children's Villages has provided critical aid to refugees, internally displaced families and unaccompanied children, affected by the European refugee crisis, in over 13 countries.
  • In the second half of 2015, roughly 415,000 refugees passed through Macedonia. SOS Children’s Villages is operating two Child-Friendly Spaces for vulnerable children and their families passing through Macedonia. By January 2016, the team distributed food and hygiene kits to nearly 8,000 caregivers and their children.
  • In Serbia, three Child-friendly Spaces have reached over 9,000 vulnerable children, mothers and caregivers. The mobile SOS outreach teams have provided nearly 30,000 services to refugees. In addition, between 500 and 1,000 refugees uses the SOS ICT centres to reconnect with separated family and friends.   

How Eden works:

Users report an issue they are facing and then categorize it by type, such as medical, food shortage, etc. Eden also has a real-time map and users can adapt their settings so they only see issues relevant to them. In the possible scenario where a refugee goes into labour, Eden will alert all of the medical organisations in the area to help coordinate who will respond. The app helps avoid situations where more than one organisation unnecessarily responds to the same incident. 

The future of Eden:

Eden is in the beta stages of being tested by SOS Children’s Villages and other NGOs working on the Balkan route. Although the platform is currently intended for refugees and emergency organisations, in the future, Eden will be available in other emergency situations and to volunteers, such as doctors.   

SOS Children's Villages has provided care to over 1,100 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. Donate to our emergency relief fund to protect vulnerable children. 

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