Worldwide, around 80 million people are on the run. People flee their homes from conflict, economic uncertainty or natural disasters. Forced to travel to safety. Refugees have to take great risks in order to reach safety. Along the way and in camps, they face a multitude of challenges such as physical exhaustion, poor living conditions and limited access to healthcare. The coronavirus outbreak is an additional challenge leading to increased hardship.   

Red Cross societies and volunteers are taking action across the world. We provide medical assistance, distribute food and clean drinking water, and provide reliable information and psychosocial support. By participating in Kilometres for Opportunities, you can support refugees, while at the same time challenging yourself physically and hitting your exercise goal. Read more below about the routes and kilometres that people in need travel and how the Red Cross contributes. 

East to West Bosnia

Kljuc – Bihac: 103 km

Large groups of refugees are still coming to Europe. They travel unimaginable distances under dangerous conditions in search of a safer existence. Many refugees choose the Balkan route in an attempt to enter Europe. But many borders are closed, and as a result the refugees are trapped. For example in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The conditions there are difficult: closed borders, full refugee camps and harsh winters. As if that weren't enough, the coronavirus is also lurking.

The route is long. People enter Bosnia through Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia. Once there, many travel to the Una Sana Canton region, where they hope to cross the border into Croatia. But that is difficult because of closed borders.

Red Cross mobile teams provide assistance to all migrants living outside the camps. They hand out food, water and warm clothing and provide first aid and psychosocial assistance.

Image: Volunteers distribute goods in the municipality of Una Sana Canton.

Ethiopia to Sudan

Hamdayet to Kassala: 235 km

At the beginning of November, fighting broke out in the Ethiopian region of Tigray, forcing people to flee. More than 68,470 people have now crossed the border into Sudan. There is such a border crossing at the town of Hamdayet. Many refugees continue their journey from there to relief camps around Kassala in Sudan. Once in Sudan, new challenges await the refugees. They arrive in a country where the situation is not easy. Sudan is ravaged by floods, there is a lack of clean drinking water and diseases such as malaria and the corona virus are always lurking.

Since November, the Sudanese Red Crescent has expanded its activities on the border with Ethiopia. Refugees receive psychosocial support and medical assistance in established clinics. Emergency relief items are also distributed, such as food and hygiene packages. In addition, a road has been repaired to make it easier to transport refugees to the reception camps. Reception tents, kitchens and toilets have been built in the camps.

Due to the accumulation of problems in Sudan, the help of the Red Cross is urgently needed. In Kassala, 66 volunteers and 14 staff members are hard at work helping people.

Libya to Sicily

Tripoli to Augusta: 658 km

The Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy is one of the most active and dangerous routes for people fleeing to Europe by sea. More than 35.000 lives have been lost on this route in the past seven years. And the number is still increasing. Three times as many people died in the first half of 2021 as in the same period last year. Those who try to make the crossing have left their home. They are on the run from conflicts in their country. Seeking better economic and social opportunities. Looking for a future. Not only men try to make this dangerous journey, but also women and children are forced to make the crossing.

This route is about the journey between Libya and Italy. The people trying to travel through Libya come from different countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and Tunisia. War-ravaged Tigray (Ethiopia) also leads to many extra people fleeing. Libya is therefore an important transit and departure point. But also a dangerous country because of instability and violence. Also, there are many concerns about the abuse of refugees and migrants in Libya.

The Red Cross works together with SOS Mediterranee to help boat refugees who get into trouble during the crossing. Starting this month, our teams will join the crew of the rescue vessel ‘Ocean Viking’. We provide first aid, medical care and psychological support to the people who have been brought on board safely. We also hand out food, dry clothes, blankets and toiletries.

Venezuela to Colombia

Valencia to Cucuta: 713 km

As of late 2018, millions of people fled Venezuela due to the economic and political crisis. Many of them fled to Colombia to start a new life there. But then the coronavirus also arrived in Colombia.

Due to the economic consequences of the corona crisis, many migrants are no longer able to provide for their livelihood. They can no longer pay rent and lack access to health centers. That is why many migrants decide to return to Venezuela. Often walking. In combination with border regulations and the closing of some borders, this has caused many people to walk the irregular paths (trochas). “There are risks associated with crossing borders on these routes, especially in Ipiales and Nariño, with an average flow of 250 people per day,” said Marilyn Bonfante, director of Social and Humanitarian Development for the Colombian Red Cross. Not only is the risk of spreading and contamination increasing, but also the risk of robbery and even the risk of ending up in human trafficking networks.

The Colombian Red Cross continues its work to help migrants at the border points. For example, they provide basic health care through the use of mobile units and by holding health days in public areas. A telephone line and a WhatsApp line are available for medical orientation and psychosocial support. Shelter spaces have also been created for children and families in need of emotional support. Activities are organized in these spaces and awareness of Covid-19 and forms of prevention is promoted. To help people meet their basic needs, food parcels and vouchers are distributed. The Colombian Red Cross has already reached 40,000 migrants with their assistance.