By Nichola Jones, IFRC
Blankets, hot food and first aid are being provided by hundreds of volunteers across Europe as severe winter weather continues to hit the region.
Temperatures have dropped as low as -30 degrees Celsius in some areas in recent days and extreme conditions are reported to have claimed at least 40 lives.
Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are on the ground from Turkey to Italy proving support for those at highest risk including asylum seekers, refugees, the homeless and the elderly.
In Eastern Ukraine, people forced to leave their homes by ongoing conflict are also at serious risk, with at least 18 reported to have died this month. The Ukraine Red Cross has nine emergency response teams on the ground providing emergency supplies and first aid for frostbite while eight heated tents have been set up across the country to provide shelter, hot food and clothing to more than 1,000 people.
Regional Director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe, Simon Missiri, said: “Severe winter weather is putting vulnerable people at serious risk. Our volunteers are responding across the region with a raft of support – reaching stranded motorists, providing hot food and warm clothes to homeless people and migrants and transporting patients cut off by heavy snowfall to hospital.”
In Greece, the Hellenic Red Cross is working across camps for asylum seekers and refugees where it is providing food, blankets, clothing and medical care. Volunteers are also on the streets and in metro stations in Athens providing medical checks for homeless people.
The Red Cross in Serbia is providing hot food, clothing and information to migrants and local communities.
In southern Italy, the Red Cross is patrolling streets to provide food and warm clothing to homeless people. Emergency teams are also transporting stranded patients to hospitals in other parts of the country. In Bulgaria, the Red Cross is running crisis centres for homeless people and giving out information on how to combat frostbite and hypothermia.
In Belarus, where ten people are reported to have died, the Red Cross has set up heated tents across the country to provide hot food, shelter and warm clothes for almost 10,000 people. Belarus Red Cross teams have also been on the road, helping drivers stranded in deep snow as well as visiting rubbish dumps where homeless people are known to live to provide food, blankets and first aid and medical care for frost bite.
Hot food is also being given out by Red Cross teams in Romania and Poland as temperatures remain below zero.