Croatian Baptist Aid assists refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croatian Baptist Aid assists refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Elvis Džafć, Rapid Response Coordinator Hands of Hope B&H - August 15, 2018

Croatian Baptist Aid, under the platform Hands of Hope Bosnia and Herzegovina (HoH B&H) led by the Rapid Response Coordinator, Elvis Džafić, has been present in Bosnia and Herzegovina since February 2018, providing support to refugees located there.

After observing the situation in the whole country, collecting and analyzing data, HoH B&H aimed its focus on the northwestern part of the country and cities Bihać and Velika Kladuša, where the largest number of refugees is located without adequate living conditions. The work of HoH B&H has so far been twofold: mobilizing and educating Protestant churches and organisations in Bosnia, and providing direct help to refugees.

Since July, HoH B&H began distribution of hygiene packets and buckets to refugees in Velika Kladuša. At the request of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, eng. Doctors Without Borders), HoH B&H secured funds to build three showers, and has pledged to finance travel costs for volunteers of “No Name Kitchen”, who are providing food for refugees. HoH B&H will continue its work in Velika Kladuša, and focus on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and winterization.

HoH B&H is currently working on finding new partners for a three-month project with the goal of mobilizing volunteers from churches from all around Europe, and providing them with the opportunity to serve refugees, but also to gain knowledge and experience in this line of work.

All volunteers who are accepted, will get basic security and human rights education based on the UN Basic Security Training and ODIHR advocacy training, and to get acquainted with the context and political situation of the countries refugees are coming from.

The goal of the project is to gather enough human resources to cover the coming winter period, when the volunteer numbers are expected to drop, and the need for them rise.

For all those interested in being part of this project or supporting it in any way in the following months, please feel free to contact the HoH B&H staff at

Photos: Croatian Baptist Aid


Crisis Overview

The situation in Bihać and Velika Kladuša in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is alarming.

B&H asked for help from international organizations, IOM and UNHCR, so as to provide quality help as soon as possible to refugees living in abandoned buildings and public parks. The largest number of refugees is in Bihać, 4576 people. The biggest organized location for accommodating them are two abandoned buildings, a former student dorm (home) in Borovi, that currently hosts around 600 refugees, and an abandoned hotel on the bank of river Una, housing 400 refugees.

Other refugees are located in parks and other smaller abandoned buildings around the town of Bihać. Both of these locations are below minimum humanitarian standards. In the former student dorm organizations ECHO and the Red Cross are providing three meals a day for around a 1000 refugees.

IOM established two containers with showers. This building is without a roof, and the rooms refugees are sleeping in have no windows, doors or beds. On the second location, however, refugees don’t have access to any kind of help. There is a lack of food, water, adequate sanitation. Three refugees have already been injured in this building and have been transported to Sarajevo to be treated.

Velika Kladuša currently has a smaller number of refugees, around 1000; however, the conditions they live in are as bad as in Bihać, or even worse. There is a lack of clean water, adequate accommodation, no access to hygiene, lack of clothes and footwear, no appropriate lighting. All of this contributes to a growing number of attempted smuggling across the border, and also increase in police brutality.

The camp in Velika Kladuša is organized by independend volunteers, and it’s located around 1 km from the Croatian border. There are 40 underage children in that camp, who are exposed to the elements, to lack of water and food, and who are a frequent target for the smugglers.