Background:

Lesbos: fear of Corona

Providing medical help for 7 weeks in the biggest refugee camp of Europe

by Sebastian Zausch,  2020/04/22

The official part of the refugee camp Moria had been planned to accommodate approximately 3,000 people. Today there live up to 20,000 refugees at a rough guess. Tessa Kraan/Boat Refugee Foundation

„When I return home, I am also a little bit sad as I am leaving many people behind, whom I like and have bonded with“, Rebekka tells us. For the last seven weeks she has worked for humedica and the Netherlands organization Bootvluchteling (Boat Refugee Foundation) and provided health care for displaced persons in the biggest refugee camp of Europe: Moria on the Greek island Lesbos. The camp was planned to accommodate 3,000 people, today there are living 20,000 at a rough guess. Rebekka will remember many of them.

Learn more about how Rebekka experienced her time on Lesbos in the following RSA-Radio podcast:

Hear for example more about the woman, whose dressing materials Rebekka has changed regularly in the last ten days. In a cold night she had tried to heat her tent with a furnace. But the furnace got so hot that the tent threatened to catch fire. In order to save her children and what was left of her belongings, the woman took the furnace with both hands and threw it out of the tent. She suffered severe burnings – but she as well as her family are still alive.

After four weeks Rebekka bonded with many of her patients personally. Photo: Tessa Kraan/Boat Refugee Foundation

„Not only the practitioners, who work here every day, are heroes“, says Rebekka. „The camp inhabitants, who have lived through hard times and are waiting here day after day, are heroes as well. Their gratitude for all that we do is incredible“, Rebekka reports. She is also deeply impressed by the solidarity among the people. „There was a man, who suffered from a severe foot injury and could not walk. We gave him walking aids. Some days later on he limped into our health care station without his crutches. He was already better, he told us, he had given the crutches to his neighbor, who needed them more than him at the moment.“

In case of a Corona outbreak in the camp, the team had to wear such protective clothing for work. Corresponding exercises are organized regularly. Photo: humedica

The people in the camp are afraid of Corona. They do not know much about the virus, which is keeping the world on tenterhooks at the moment. But they know: if it reaches Moria, they have hardly nothing at all to set against it. It is impossible to keep enough distance in this settlement where too many people are living in cramped conditions. Following hygiene guidelines is also quite futile. Rebekka and her colleagues inform much about the safeguarding measures, they explain how to wash one´s hands properly. But this is difficult, if there are not enough water points – and soap is lacking, too. Another aid organization sews face masks with the refugees. But it will be a long time before each inhabitant will have two of them - and the opportunity to clean them properly. The health care station has already prepared for Corona: who comes in, has to wash his hands in the entrance area. Who shows symptoms suspicious of Corona, gets separated and is cared for in a provisory treatment room next to the clinic entrance. Recently an isolation container has been installed, where people can be quarantined until they receive their Corona test results.

Medical help in times of Corona: With a proper distance Rebekka takes the patients´ temperature to exclude Corona symptoms. Photo: humedica

„At the latest in the event of a Corona outbreak we will urgently need more intervention team members“, Rebekka reports. But most eligible helpers are currently needed in their national health care systems. Furthermore, everyone, who is willing to help here, must stay in quarantine for two weeks. „If you want to work here for two weeks, this means that you must be dispensable from home for at least six weeks. But who is?” asks Rebekka.

When Rebekka flies home now, she feels mostly grateful. „I have realized there once more, how privileged I am“, she says. Back home, she has to stay in quarantine for two weeks first off.

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