My name is Katie, and for the last year I have been working in Lesvos, Greece. My work has brought me mostly to Moria Camp, the notorious refugee camp known internationally for its squalid conditions, overcrowding, and at its worst, preventable deaths. The camp, which has an official capacity of 2890 people skyrocketed to international attention in 2018 when the population reached 8000. Over the course of the winter months of 2019, the camp was decongested through transfers to mainland Greece. In the past year, the camp, at its lowest, still housed over twice its capacity.
However, due to renewed instability in Syria, Cameroon, and Afghanistan, the numbers have once again surged. What was once a crisis is now a catastrophe: nearly 15000 people are living in and around the camp. When it rains, tents are carried away down streams of sewage and rainwater; there is approximately one toilet for every 100 people. Hot water is a luxury that finds no place in the camp. Fires are common as people attempt to cook food, as the nutritional standards are inadequate at the food distribution centre in Moria Camp. Some estimates state that over 50% of the camp’s resident have attempted suicide in the past year – the youngest attempt coming from a two-year-old. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) runs rampant, and untreated.
While I arrived at this island critical of Greece for not doing more for these vulnerable populations, I have since seen the struggle that local Greeks face. Lesvos has turned into the face of the European Union’s refugee crisis, and the people who have lived here their whole life have had their routines irreversibly altered.
It is this truth that has made me consider how to help both locals and refugees: how to bridge the two groups, without sacrificing one for the other. I believe one way of achieving this is to help alleviate the burden on the local medical system. While Moria has two primary care clinics operating daily, the capacity to treat all those who require medical attention is not achievable in its current state. All secondary care, such as x-rays, CT scans, and urgent care are referred to the city hospital. The hospital is also operating at full capacity, and sometimes the wait for services is too long: indeed, some departments have had to shutter their doors to refugees to be able to treat Greek citizens.
My experience on the ground, along with a needs assessment, and through consultation with Greek physicians and humanitarian workers has led me to the idea of opening an urgent care centre in Moria Camp, in an effort to stem the number of refugees using the main hospital. By easing the wait times for locals and refugees through the provision of another medical centre, that is equipped to deal with urgent cases such as suspected fractures, burns, allergic reactions, and psychosocial support, I believe we can reach a more harmonious coexistence among locals and refugees. I will be entering into an agreement with a local medical organization who has been active in Lesvos since 2016 to help create this urgent care centre and anticipate, with help, an opening date of December 1, 2019.
I am humbly asking you to support me in this project of integrative healthcare, through networking connections, supplies donation, volunteering, or a financial contribution. As the refugee crisis deepens, solutions will need to be curated to ensure that hosting communities are not forgotten, that resources are not overstretched, and that those who require access to medical care are not forsaken.