[Greece] A doctor’s story: inside the ‘living hell’ of Moria refugee camp

09 Feb 2020
The Guardian

Annie Chapman, a doctor from London and a volunteer of the Boat Refugee Foundation (BRF) in Lesbos, Greece, has recently published an observer special report at the Guardian. Her story about dire living conditions and a close look at cases of several patients sensibly describe what she calls ‘the living hell of Moria refugee camp’.

Roundup - Moria refugee camp at present

  • The campsite has now more than 20, 000 settlers despite the initial accommodation plan for a maximum of 3, 100 people.
  • 40% of the overall camp population are children.
  • There has been no electricity for two and a half months.
  • The most commonly spread health-related issues among the migrant community are child rashes, pregnancy-related pain, hallucinations and flashbacks as a result of violence witnessing, sleep disturbances, itching from wearing nappies, the ‘Moria flue’ (that is dehydration as a result of limited access to clean water), meningitis, stabbing wounds and various other chronic diseases.
  • Women and children wear nappies to avoid going out to the toilet after dark fall due to high levels of violence, including sexual violence. 
  • There are only two ambulances on the island despite a 25% increase in the population. Taxis are often the only means for transportation of patients in need of emergency services.
  • The secure areas for unaccompanied children and vulnerable women are understaffed.
  • Predominant boredom environment while waiting for developments of non-transparent asylum procedures.

One day in the BRF portable cabin clinic

BRF is the only medical organization providing emergency care for all Moria residents from 4:00pm to 11:00pm. During the working hours, the clinic team examines from 180 to 250 patients daily. People wait in line long before the clinic opens, carrying their police papers in order to get in for a check-up. The existence of the BRF, as Annie underlines, is lifesaving especially when thinking about the prevalence of violent stabbings, the outbreak of meningitis and the freezing tents few-days old babies sleep in. The team - Dutch, French, English, American and Spanish doctors and nurses, and translators from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia and the Congo - work under tremendous stressful conditions.

In this special report, these are illustrated through the narration of several cases of younger and older children in need of urgent medical help. The first two cases, who almost arrive at the same time in the clinic, are a 4 years old child with high fever, not eating or drinking water for hours, and a young teenager with PTSD panic attack. The other two, carried by others, are unconscious because of the lack of oxygen as a result of a fire outbreak. The last pair are unaccompanied minors who were stabbed in their chests. These alarming stories have made its author ask herself – ‘What have you seen? What are you still seeing? I can’t comprehend it. And when we send them back to their tents, I feel ashamed’.

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