Rough sleepers at rubbish dump given life-line in Belarus as brutal winter begins

Publié: 12 janvier 2016 14:51 CET

By Nichola Jones, IFRC/Dmitry Rusakov, Belarus Red Cross

Dozens of homeless people living on landfill sites in Belarus have been supported with hot food, first aid and treatment for frostbite as temperatures in the country plummet.

The Belarus Red Cross helped 154 people sleeping rough at rubbish dumps near the country’s capital Minsk in early January as part of its winter response operation.

Another 1,000 homeless people have also been reached in Vitebsk, Gomel and Minsk with emergency supplies, hot food, drinks and health care by volunteers.

Belarus Red Cross disaster management coordinator, Dmitry Rusakov, said response teams had been focussing on homelessness hotspots since the start of January. “People are living in extremely harsh conditions in these areas – some staying outside at rubbish dumps and recycling centres,” he said.

“A fear of stigmatization and a feeling of shame often prevents really vulnerable people from seeking medical help and treatment which is where we come in – volunteers have been visiting these sites, carrying out on-the-spot check-ups and ensuring more serious cases such as frostbite are referred for hospital treatment.”

Drivers stranded on roads around Minsk have also been evacuated by the Red Cross as freezing temperatures rendered roads impassable. Fifty motorists were given hot drinks and shelter this week as part of the nationwide programme responding to the impact of winter.

The Belarus Red Cross works with the country’s Ministry of Emergencies throughout the winter months, where temperatures can drop as low as -27 celsius. The organization’s disaster response teams can be activated through an emergency hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“As soon as the Red Cross receives the call, the teams are deployed,” said Rusakov. “Last week a call-out by a duty police officer saw volunteers on the spot within 30 minutes where they were able to put up heated tents and ensure people were provided with the shelter they needed to protect them from the bitter cold.”