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