BBC and the Dutch NOS posted disturbing articles about the poignant situation of refugees in Moria camp on Lesvos. Doctors Without Borders talks about suicide attempts in the camp and there are even children who have lost the will to live.
We can confirm this situation. In our clinic too, parents tell us that their children are doing badly, they are unmanageable and say they want to die. Also distressing are the people who need specific help in a hospital, such as people with cancer or kidney problems, but who do not get the much needed medical help.
Boat Refugee Foundation has been active on Lesvos for 3.5 years and around 2.5 years in camp Moria. We raised the alarm before. And once again, we urgently ask the European government for a constructive solution to the utmost worrying situation of thousands of people. We see the situation worsening every day and we are seriously concerned about the lack of a dignified asylum procedure and access to medical care. This situation is untenable and unworthy of mankind.
Meanwhile, we continue to do what we can within our circle of influence. There are a lot of meetings and consultation with other medical actors on the island. And we continue to help the people in Moria with medical and psychosocial help. Fortunately, it is never hopeless to help a person. We can make the difference for hundreds of people per day!
Maybe the messages worry you and you feel powerless in so much need. There is a way to help. If you want to be involved in our organisation, you can apply as a volunteer or you can financially support our work. And you can help us spread these messages to open the eyes of the world to the inhuman situation on the edge of Europe.
More information about volunteering: https://bootvluchteling.nl/en/volunteering/
Or donate now: https://bootvluchteling.nl/en/donate/
You can read the article of the NOS here (in Dutch): https://bit.ly/2LDpH5k
You can read the BBC article (in English) here: https://bbc.in/2LDMHky
Photo by Tessa Kraan
On May 1, Boat Refugee Foundation started a medical mission in Greek refugee camp Moria. Over 120 people came to the medical clinic with health complaints on the first day.
Situation worsens every day
Camp Moria, located on Lesbos, has been overcrowded since 2015. The camp was initially set up for around 2500 refugees, whereas the current number of inhabitants is approaching 7000. A daily average of 53 people arrive in the camp. There is a dire lack of sufficient facilities and health care.
“We notice the situation getting worse every day” tells Fons Strijbosch, medical coordinator for Boat Refugee Foundation. He has been on Lesvos for several months to prepare the medical mission.
No access to health care
The various aid organizations and authorities working in the camp meet nearly every day to discuss the situation. The organizations that are currently already offering health care in the camp work at full capacity. Despite that, there are hundreds of patients on a daily basis who do not have direct access to health care. With the dedicated help of volunteer doctors and nurses, Boat Refugee Foundation will from 1 May ensure health care during evening hours.
Safety for the team is our first priority
“We know the camp through and through because of our previous medical mission and our current psychosocial support mission”, says director Annerieke Berg. Tensions in the camp may rise quickly. It is incredibly important for all aid organizations to ensure well-functioning procedures and safety protocols are in place. Berg tells: “We will always do what we can, but the safety of our team is at all times our first priority.” The first medical shift ran smoothly. Over 120 people presented themselves at the cabin with health complaints. Around 100 patients were seen by the medics during the shift.
For more information about this article, please contact Margriet van der Woerd, press officer Boat Refugee Foundation: email@example.com
Photo: Willem Lemmens
Imagine this: at five AM, you climb out of your small tent. Shivering, back bent. You are hungry, but it will be a while before you are able to get food. You long for a hot shower, but the water is usually cold. And it is still dark; it’s dangerous then in the shower cabins. A girl you know was assaulted only yesterday. You are exhausted, physically, but also mentally. You feel the adrenaline rushing through your body, however, because your little one of 1,5 years has been sick for a few days now. Her head feels warm, she doesn’t eat well and she cries a lot. You really need be able to see the doctor today. The medical cabin doesn’t open until 8 AM, but you will stand in front of the door. Maybe this will increase your chances to get in. It soon turns out you are not the only one with this idea. When you arrive at the cabin at level four of the refugee camp where you ‘live’, you see a large group of nervous people. You estimate there are about 40 of them. You hear a middle-aged man moan, he sits on the ground and grabs his head. There is someone screaming behind you. When you turn around, you see a pregnant woman with a distorted face and her hands around her belly. She is alone. You walk up towards her and put your hand on her back. With your other arm you tightly grab your daughter. You kiss her warm forehead and and say a little prayer.
Currently, this is the shocking reality in refugee camp Moria on Lesbos, due to a lack of medical capacity. It was probably difficult to picture yourself in that situation. You you, the doctor is only a phone call away and you can visit them for everything. A swollen toe, a weird looking mole, acute stomach ache: just call to check if it could be something serious, and your anxiety disappears. Is it an emergency? You can come in right away. It’s your live that matters! Standing in line hours in advance, we only do that when we want to be the first to get the new I-Phone, or when we visit a concert. The fact that people in Moria need to do this to survive is unimaginable. We think this is inhumane. Do you?
That is why we want to start another medical mission from May first. This project depends on available medics and donations. In this blog, we explain what the medical mission will look like. And why you can mean more than you think.
Always a doctor available for any problem
The goal of the medical mission is to ensure that a doctor is always available, for any problem. This doesn’t mean that we can solve all problems; we often refer people. It does mean that we want to be there for the people of Moria unconditionally. We achieve this by making sure they can see a doctor 24/7: we man or medical cabin between 4PM and 8AM, another organization offers medical care during the other hours. And by paying real attention to patients.
Our doctors take shifts of about eight hours in teams of four. Two doctors treat patients in separate consulting rooms. The other two medics will take intakes in the admissions room, to decide who needs treatment and who could be helped by the conversation itself. These medics also do the administration and make sure it stays quiet outside.
In one shift, our medics see about 80 patients. This is a lot, about twice as much as GPs do in The Netherlands. Usually, this enables us to see everyone visiting our cabin.
Impact medical mission reaches beyond our cabin
People in Moria seek help from our doctors for various reasons. Sometimes, these are matters of live and death. In December, a boy came to our cabin with an arterial bleeding in his neck, sustained in a fight. But mostly we see stress-related complaints, panic attacks and stomach problems. Many conditions of mental nature. We notice that people are often mainly looking for a sympathetic ear. A safe place with someone there to take care of them. Always and unconditionally.
This is not only important for the people coming to our cabin with complaints, but for all – currently 5000 – people in Moria. Every man, every woman, every child. Knowing you can be helped when needed gives a peace of mind. And a more peaceful Moria is a safer Moria. This way, the impact of our medical mission reaches further than our cabin.
“I am so happy you are here, that you pay attention and listen.”
Josph, 25 years, Congo
This is needed to start and run the mission
To start and run the mission, we need two things: medics and money.
We continuously need a team of ten doctors and nurses to run the medial mission. It is hard work, under often difficult circumstances and with limited resources. This is why we find it very special that so many talented people came to Lesbos to volunteer for the people in Moria. Often during holidays from their busy jobs back home. Very admirable!
Although people come to Moria to help, we often hear that they return home richer. Both professionally as well as personally. In The Netherlands, as a doctor you often work with strict protocols, being a small cog in a well-oiled, advanced machine. Here, attention for people is central, you don’t have all the necessary supplies by far, and you depend on you own assessment in every new situation. You make your mission to be a success together with your team: usually people from all over the world, each with their unique skills. You learn a lot from it. And to really mean something for someone else makes a person happy, as crazy as this may sound in this context. Many volunteers return to Moria, because they appreciate being able to help the people there.
“Moria has an inspiring atmosphere. I feel very useful and tend to lose myself in offering medical care to the people living there. This is how I find myself. Who is in good health, has hope. And who has hope, has the world.”
Lucie Blondé, 26 years, General Practitioner, Gendt
The medical mission costs around 10.000 Euro per month. We need this money mainly for supplies and medication. This can be bandages, crutches, suture needles, IVs, antibiotics and painkillers. And for daily transport of named supplies as well as the teams to and from Moria.
You can mean more than you think
The problems in Moria are huge. This probably affects you, but it can also make you feel helpless. Maybe you think: ‘as an individual, there is not much I can do, it is no use’, You can mean more for our medical mission than you may think, however.
As doctor or nurse, you can really make a difference in Moria. Do you want to be that safe haven and push your boundaries? Please apply here as volunteer.
Do you not have a medical background? Then you can still mean a lot for the medical mission by a donation. Your support enables us to buy supplies, medicine and transportation. It may sound like a cliche, but every Euro helps.
Photo header: Bas Bakkenes
Hans Koster went to Lesvos as a medical doctor, with the Boat Refugee Foundation. We asked him about his experiences. In the medical cabin he tells us his emotional story about his experiences.
In particular, it are the children who makes the most impressions.
Translation of the movie:
Hans told us that there was this little girl who’s father died at sea when they are fleeing to Lesvos. The other day in the camp she sees her brother fall on the ground and hurts himself. She went in a terrible blackout because of the memory of losing her father. Here whole body was shutdown and she was experiencing a major panic attack.
Hans sits with her in his arms until she was calm again.
In order to provide essential medical care to the refugees staying on Lesbos, Boat Refugee Foundation aims to maintain its excellent relations with Mytilini Hospital. In the past, BRF was able to donate a large quantity of important medical equipment to the hospital combined with teachings (LINK). Currently, the local pediatricians help us greatly to give vaccinations to refugee children (LINK). Now, BRF has built on its previous teachings to the local hospital staff and provided a two day Pediatric Emergency Training.
Alexandra Vinograd, our long term medical volunteer and Paediatric Emergency Physician, together with colleague Keri Cohn offered an interesting and interactive training to the pediatric interns and pediatricians of Mytilini Hospital. Due to the economic crisis ánd the refugee crisis, local doctors do not often receive additional medical trainings. Both the pediatricians and the pediatric interns stated to be very happy to attend the lectures and participate in the simulations about topics like pediatric care, x-ray review in pediatric trauma, and near drowning of children.
Do you want to support Boat Refugee Foundation in continuing to provide essential medical care to the refugees staying in Greece? We really need your help! IBAN account number: NL97 RBRB 0918 9326 37
f.a.o. Stichting Bootvluchteling.
Vaccinating children is globally regarded as one of the most important factors in improving public health. Refugee children have often not received full vaccinations in their country of origin. Authorities in Greece have so far been unable to give the refugee children staying in Lesbos their necessary vaccinations, putting them at risk for potentially severe and contagious infectious diseases.
Boat Refugee Foundation, in collaboration with Refugee Support Platform, Caritas Hellas, and the pediatricians of Mytilini Hospital, has found a way to vaccinate the refugee children staying at Caritas Hotel. After carefully investigating all 200 refugees living here, 10 children were found to need additional vaccinations, which they are currently receiving at Mytilini hospital, using WHO recommendations and the Greek national vaccination program.
This great improvement in the health of the refugee children requires your support. The costs for an official booklet and the vaccines to make a child fully up to date with his or her vaccinations are approximately 100 euros per child.
After a recent change in the population of Caritas Hotel, 25 more children have been identified to need additional vaccinations in the following month.
Please support the refugee children staying on Lesbos, help us giving them their necessary vaccinations, and donate today.
Bank account: NL97 RBRB 0918 9326 37
Attn. Stichting Bootvluchteling
BIC number: RBRBNL21 REGIOBANK