A painful reality

And this strange feeling which about 350 doctors and nurses before me have gone through when leaving Lesbos. The strange feeling that you can go “home” without any problems with customs. Whether home is in The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, England, the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, to name a few. That you are able to use your passport to go back to a place where some people are hoping to go to, sometimes for more than 11 months.

There is a fine line between cause and effect here. Considering that the majority of the people sleep in improvised tent camps or cabins and that because of the cold everyone prefers to stay inside, it is not surprising that every virus is spreading in no-time, resulting in the whole range of symptoms: headaches, running noses, soar throats, earaches, and sometimes pneumonia. Considering that for most, dinner usually consists of beans with rice, every day, without enough vegetables or something with enough vitamins and fiber available, it is no surprise that people complain about upset stomachs and constipation. When seeing the poor sanitation lacking hot water, as well as the dry air in the cabins due to heaters that are constantly burning, it is not surprising that people come in with all sorts of skin problems, such as fungus and eczema. It won’t be a surprise when in the coming months, stomach viruses will appear.

These cases keep the medical team quite busy and the medication that is provided is adding up. I calculated what is provided on average each month: about 6000 paracetamol tablets, 3000 ibuprofen or diclofenac, about 2500 strepsils, 850 capsules of amoxicilline (this is about 55 courses), 2 kg movicolon, 500 antacids and several allergy tablets against itches and inhalers for asthma attacks, just to give a few examples.
It’s not these numbers that made the biggest impression, however. The horrible stories of people who talk about tortures by De-ash or other parties which resulted in leaving their home country. Losing brothers, sisters, parents or other relatives because of the ongoing violence. The panic attacks due to reliving the fear, depressed patients who sometimes come to see you, desperate because they received more threats on social media, and many other issues that are an ordeal for the mental health, those things made a much bigger impression.

I gave up hope that Moira will be dismantled and that the people stying in this overflowing camp will be transferred to other countries. But still, there are people who try to make the best out of it in a positive way. Greeks and several other volunteers who try to support the people each day and children who, as anywhere in the world, are able to play and enjoy themselves. This, together with the weather that seems to improve slowly, is reason to be a little bit hopeful, a little…

Text: Arno Maas
Photo: Arie Kievit