A regular day in Samos

A father and mother from Congo and their two month old baby are new in the camp. The father is very worried about his daughter. The baby looks happy and well-fed, which is confirmed when weighing her. I take them to the medical cabin to create an infant passport after weighing and measuring her. They speak French, which can be quite a challenge for them. Not many people here speak French. Most aid agencies use English as their main language. Fortunately I speak enough French to be able to talk to them. The father is really worried about the health of his baby in this camp. He asks for Dettol to be able to disinfect the child’s clothes. He is worried about infections. I explain to him that he has a very healthy baby who is getting breastfed, which gives her extra protection against infections. It seems to reassure the parents a bit. It cannot be easy to stay in a refugee camp with your small baby.

After a while the father gets back to me. He tells me he needs me for a problem. His head is so full, he really needs medication. Maybe I can give him something? I tell him I am a peadiatric nurse and he will need to wait at the cabin for the doctor. But he keeps coming back with his worried, begging eyes, to ask if I really cannot give him any medication. Also for his brother, he too has too much on his mind. And after having seen me a few times, he decides to cut his losses. And the rest of the night I see the two big African brothers standing in line for the doctor, sometimes sending me a depressed look.

New people arrived, among them nine children. The people are waiting for their health check with the doctor. They look dejected and tired. There are mainly women, with a little girl of around sixteen months old. They most likely arrived by boat. Most women wear the same sweatpants. The police escorts the new people to a bench where they need to wait. I only saw one little smile when I gave the little girl a coloring book and marker. In the middle of the coloring children sits an old man, he is concentrating on coloring a picture for his granddaughter. No markers have a cap anymore. A big, outstanding boy asks me to help put the caps back on. I think he is mentally disabled. He spends each day at our cabin.

The girl of the Syrian family who fled after their grandfather, grandmother and aunt have been killed by an air-strike is back. She is smart and speaks English really well. Every day she is here to color very meticulous, and very long. Her father told me his son doesn’t sleep and is very anxious at night. He is referred to the hospital in Samos-town. A boy comes to me and makes a gesture with his hands I do not immediately understand. I think he wants the jumping rope, and I tell him: ‘Tomorrow’. But he persists and makes shaking movements with his little hands. Suddenly it rings a bell: he wants the dice. And indeed, he does.

There is turmoil between the small boys again. Two small boys of around four or five years old are fighting. When Mathieu grabs one and holds him because he keeps struggling, the other one returns and starts kicking the boy again. I grab him and place him on a bench. The boy Mathieu is still holding, tries to fight free. I tell Mathieu I will take him to try and calm him down with a book. Once I pick him up he clings to me and he remains sitting on my lap for a long time. He is unresponsive. He doesn’t want anything. He really is in need of clean clothes and a bath. He smells of urine and snot is running from his nose. But I keep on stroking him on his back, that is what he seems to need now. And after about fifteen minutes he climbs off my lap and quietly starts coloring. Later Ashly, the doctor, tells me she knows this boy. He is Kurdish and is being bullied by the other boys all the time.

A family that arrived today with their 5 month old baby, comes to our cabin. Together with an interpreter and Vanessa the doctor we go in. I ask some questions to the parents and undress the baby. While measuring the baby she starts to cry, she is hungry. Because the child is crying so much I proceed to make her a bottle of milk. The bottle is sterilized and I quickly turn to the mother and child. The baby refuses the bottle and the parents are getting restless. The bottle needs to be filled with porridge. Fortunately, we have this on stock, so I quickly go back to the milk-room and turn the bottle into a porridge bottle. Thankfully she drinks this. Measuring the head will be saved for next time. It’s cold outside and they don’t have any warm clothes for the child, so they go quickly back to the tent.

Text: Anne Frieling
Photo: Anne Frieling