Meet the ‘mother of the jungle’ at Dunkirk refugee camp

Grande-Synthe-3

Roonak, pictured with her son Beshwar, centre

“The only thing that people have here is hope,” says Beshwar. “There’s no clean water. There are no showers, there aren’t enough toilets. What else do we have?”

The mud consumes everything in the dank squalor of the Grande-Synthe camp, near Dunkirk. Flimsy tents offer little protection from the rain and cold. Rats and diseases are rife. It is inhumane.

The camp is home to around 3,000 refugees, mostly Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. There are many families here, including around 300 children.

The inhabitants spend their days trying to keep warm and dry. They spend their nights trying to find an unguarded lorry bound for the UK.

More

In Mongolia, beware of the dzud

Oyunbatt stands outside a snow-covered log house

Oyunbatt outside his home

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a rather dramatic weather event.

People in Mongolia are used to harsh winters. But this year the winter is even worse than usual: the country is in the grip of a ‘dzud’ (pronounced zood) – a hot, dry summer followed by a freezing, windy and snowy winter.

Temperatures average lower than -40° Celsius at night. Can you imagine?

More

Zika virus explained

Red Cross volunteers in Colombia talk to a group of localsThe Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and it is spreading through the Americas. It may be linked to thousands of babies being born without fully developed brains.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is worried that the virus is spreading far and fast. It has declared a global public health emergency. 

Here is everything you need to know about this health crisis. More

Refugee crisis: cold and alone with nowhere to go

Grande-Synthe-Aram.2Aram is 16. His parents are dead. His younger brothers are in Iraq. He is alone in France.

For the last three months he has been living in the squalid Grande-Synthe camp, home to around 3,000 refugees and migrants, near Dunkirk.

He was brought here by people smugglers, hidden in the back of a car. He had no idea where he was, or where he was going.

“I don’t like it here, it’s a crazy place,” he says in a softly spoken voice.

More

Syria crisis: Escaping the snipers and bombs

Syrian refugees, Jordan

©BritishRedCross/IvorPrickett

For someone who has been through so much, Maher is exceptionally calm and dignified.

His is a tale of desperation and sadness, but it is by no means unique.

I meet him in the small basement flat that he shares with his wife, Fatima, and father. The family sleep in a tiny room that floods regularly.

They don’t seem to mind; they are just grateful to be alive.

More

Syrian refugees start afresh in Turkey

Refugees-Croatia

Turkey hosts more refugees than any other nation in the world. Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, visited the country recently and saw how Syrians are trying to settle into a new way of life.

I met Rana* at a community centre in Istanbul. Along with a group of other women, she was taking part in a Turkish language course organised by our partner the Turkish Red Crescent.

Some of them had been in Turkey for several years, others just a few weeks. Rana used to be a dentist in Aleppo.

Her English was word perfect and we chatted about her journey out of Syria and some of the challenges she and her family now face.

She told me about the frustrations of not being able to work and the difficulty of learning a new language.

I asked her what her preference would be: stay in Turkey and start a new life, or go back to Syria? She smiled at me. “I still carry the key to my home in Aleppo,” came the reply.

More

Crisps, buses and Irish stew: what you need to know to live in the UK

Artwork by schoolchildren welcoming Syrian refugees to BelfastYou’ve survived bombs, disease and death threats. So starting a new life in the UK should be easy, right? But where do you start if you don’t speak fluent English, you’ve never been on a bus and you don’t know what a £5 note is?

British Red Cross volunteer Jessica takes you behind-the-scenes to see how Syrian refugee families are introduced to their new lives when they first step off the plane.

The government has pledged to give 20,000 Syrian refugees a safe home in the UK over the next five years. The first families have already arrived. More