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Refugee crisis: Marita's story

Yana and baby Marita have been on the road for months
Yana and baby Marita have been on the road for months

Bringing up a baby is hard – one of the hardest jobs in the world in fact. Bringing up a baby while traveling hundreds of miles a day, often with very little food or water is even harder. For the past month, this has been Yana’s reality.

Since she fled Damascus, the capital of Syria, a few months ago Yana has faced daily struggles to keep her one-year-old daughter Marita safe and healthy. Now in Serbia, Yana and baby Marita have been able to receive medical attention and access special mother-and-baby care packages thanks to SOS Children’s Villages.

“We have come so far, but still have such a long way to go”

Yana was once a maths teacher at a school in Damascus. She loved her job and was sad to leave it, but she wants to get to Sweden where her uncle and his children are living. Yana wants to move on from the refugee reception centre in Presevo, Southern Serbia where she has been resting for the past few days. “We have come so far, but still have such a long way to go,” she sighs. But Marita is unwell and Yana is scared that resuming their difficult journey north will worsen her condition. “A few days ago, I found blood in her nappy,” Yana explains, tears rolling down her face. “And now she’s constipated. Someone gave me some medicine for that, but I’m scared to give it to her.”

Help is on hand

Fortunately for Yana, SOS Children staff are on hand and persuade her to visit the doctor at the reception centre. As a young baby, Marita is quickly ushered into the tent that houses the medical centre. The doctor is a kindly looking man who makes funny faces to amuse Marita. Yana immediately warms to him. “She has not been eating well,” she explains. “In Syria I cooked tomatoes and many vegetables and fruit. Since we left, all she’s had is baby formula.” The doctor gives her some medicine for Marita, reassuring her that everything will be fine – “She will be OK,” he says. “She has you for a mum.” Yana’s eyes fill with tears as she thanks him.

Living in a war zone and the hazardous journey from Syria have taken their toll on this young woman. Her feet are swollen and the bags under her eyes tell of many sleepless nights fraught with worry. But she is determined to press on and give her daughter a brighter future in Sweden. Clutching a mother-and-baby-care package distributed by SOS Children, she turns and smiles, waving goodbye with Marita fast asleep in her arms.

What are SOS Children's Villages doing?

SOS Children staff distribute aid in Serbia
We are active on the ground in Serbia, providing vulnerable refugees with emergency relief

Over 70,000 refugees entered Serbia between January and July of this year alone and the numbers are only set to increase. Serbia is struggling to cope with this huge influx of people, many of them families with children. Here at SOS Children, we have launched an emergency programme with a focus on helping children, young people, mothers and pregnant women. We are also able to provide medical assistance to those like Yana and Marita, who need it.

So far, we have:

  • Created child-friendly spaces where children, and mothers with small children, are able to come to play and relax
  • Provided medical and psycho-social support to children and their families
  • Distributed baby formula and specially designed nutritive food packages for malnourished children under the age of five
  • Given shelter to unaccompanied children and given out warm winter clothes and blankets, hygiene packs and tents to vulnerable families and young people
  • Secured access to the internet for refugees to help them find their family members, reunite lost children and help people plan the next stage of their journey.

You can help us continue our vital emergency relief work in Serbia by donating £10 today. 

Donate £10 now

Find out more about our refugee crisis appeal.

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