International

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Syrian refugees start afresh in Turkey

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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.

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Nepal: Keeping warm and supporting choice this winter

A Red Cross worker checks details written on an envelope while watched by a man and woman who will received it

People receiving their cash support from the Red Cross ©British Red Cross/Mark South

Just before Christmas, an orderly queue stretched for hundreds of feet from desks where men and women sat with paper, pens and envelopes of full of cash.

But this was not a holiday celebration: it was a Red Cross support programme for 17,000 families affected by earthquakes in Nepal’s Kathmandu valley. The worst in 80 years, the quakes destroyed over half a million homes last April and May.

Nepal’s destroyed houses typically had thick walls to withstand the winter weather and many people no longer have this protection. With political issues also leading to a steady rise in the price of heating fuel, keeping warm has become a challenge.

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Syria crisis: a grave would be better than this life

Syria crisis winter

©AbdulazizAl-droubi/SyrianArabRedCrescent

Cold, lonely, hungry and surrounded by conflict. There is little to cheer for Mohamad.

All he has is hope. Hope that one day the guns in Syria will fall silent and that life will return to normal.

“What is this war? We cannot understand it,” he said.

The stories and photos that have emerged from Madaya in recent days have highlighted the plight of those left behind in Syria.

And while much of the focus has been on the besieged town near Damascus, the sad truth is that millions of people across Syria are in exactly the same position.

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Bangladesh: how your donations will change lives

p-BGD0852Abdul Malek is one of 21 million people in Bangladesh who do not have access to clean water.

As the farmer explains in the video below, a lack of clean water and decent sanitation facilities, such as toilets, poses many problems for him and his family.

Thanks to everyone who donated to our Clean Start Appeal, we’ve begun work on a water and sanitation project to help people like Abdul.

Paul Davenport, who heads up our work in Bangladesh, explains what we hope to achieve.

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