Project Stories:

Salem Aleikum in Presevo

by Karin Frischknecht, 2016/06/27

Since October last year humedica operates in the small town of Presevo at the Serbian-Macedonian border and ensures the medical care of refugees. The 26 year old Swiss Karin Frischknecht, who coordinates the medical aid, is a member of the team on site. In her current report she offers an insight on how helpers and refugees experience the present situation along the Balkan route.

„I work as coordinator for humedica in Serbia since April and I can´t help to notice everyday, how invaluable the work of the helpers here is. Even so the European Union decided to declare the Balkan route officially closed for refugees, assistance is still needed at the hotspots, which our team sees daily at the refugee camp in Presevo.

Although the route from Greece to Macedonia is officially impassable, every day new refugees reach our location. They have crossed illegally the Greek border and then have continued their long way through the mountains and forests of Macedonia by foot or have paid smugglers horrendous sums to get to Serbia by other means. It is no surprise that these people often arrive in a bad physical condition, starved and dehydrated.

The refugees living in Presevo are very mixed indeed. There are children of all ages, families, mothers travelling alone or young adults. They are all on their way to Europe and hope to find there better a better life than the one they left behind at home. Many people tell our team of both the most intimate moments of their journeys and the most horrific experiences they have made in their homelands. Besides the treatment of their injuries and diseases, these refugees need most of all words of consolation and new hope.

They are grateful to have survived their illegal journey to Serbia and to be now at a place, where they can feel safe, where medical care and showers are available and where situations such as a joint meal at table, mostly thought of as trivial and everyday, are possible again. But their wish to get to Europe as fast as possible, remains strong nevertheless. Nearly every refugee has a family member, who is already at some place in Europe. There are wives travelling to follow their husbands, men, who are frantically trying to locate their families somewhere in Europe.

Our small clinic in the camp opens daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the patients and has a good reputation among the refugees thanks to its homely atmosphere and the considerate care from our local colleagues. Naturally we put a special focus on our smallest visitors. Our surgeons console terrified or weeping children with balloons or sweets. Sometimes curious small patients stay behind, who would like to try out to be doctors themselves. These moments are always a welcome distraction from our strenuous daily clinic routine.

As many people stay for some time in Presevo before they continue on their way to the West, our team members often know already the names of their patients and are able to evaluate as best as possible their disease progression as well as their course of treatment. We also make house calls to those, who have trouble walking, in their temporary refugee accommodations.

But of course also goodbyes are a part of our everyday life. We wish each other all the best, say thank you in the most different languages, wave farewell and then take care of the next, newly arrived people, who are waiting for our help.“

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