Moria: What can be done against despair and traumata?

by Julia Kittnar,  2020/07/13

Nearly 20,000 people are living in a place, which was planned to accomodate no more than 2,800: this is everyday reality in the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. „The first impression is devastating“, humedica team intervention member Julian describes the situation. „Originally, camp Moria was set up around a prison with meter high wire mesh fence, concrete pillars and barbwire.“

In the meanwhile, the camp has become a law unto itself. The raus mangelefugees settled in the hills surrounding the camp. For lack of proper building material, they built huts from planks, corrugated iron, plastics and everything else they were able to locate. Thus, a camp equal to the size of a small town has risen – a small town housing very different cultures.

„These people do not know each other, many of them are severely traumatized“, reports Julian. „And they are living here under degrading conditions: while it freezes in winter, in summer temperatures often rise to more than 40 degrees in the shade.“

Intervention team member Julian in protective clothing: the Corona virus impedes the working conditions in the camp. Photo: humedica

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Together with the Netherlands partner organization Bootvluchteling humedica tries to help the people on site. „We take care of the emergency treatment and try to cover basic medical needs together with seven other medical NGO´s“, reports Julian. After the Corona outbreak and rightwing group attacks from all over Europe on refugees as well as NGO employees, many helpers had to leave in the last months.

„The situation in the camp is overstraining for all“, says intervention team member Stefanie, who then worked on site in the camp. For four months she helped in the camp, for two months afterwards she had to stay in quarantine.

„Despair is a big topic here“, she says. She was particularly harassed by the fate of a mother: „This woman has lost her child on the run. One night in Turkey it simply vanished. She does not even know whether her child is still alive.” There are so many more stories of separated families in the camp. Approximately 1,500 unaccompanied minors are living here, the youngest one no older that four.

„It breaks my heart to hear these stories and not being able to help“, says Julian. „Most of the patients have physical diseases, which are actually caused by mental suffering. They feel pain all over their bodies, they have diarrhea or difficulty in breathing.“ But mental suffering here in the camp does not only relate to the mourning of dear persons. Many refugees have experienced violence, they were raped, tortured and abused..

Intervention team member Stefanie looks at the so-called lifejacket graveyard. The hopes of many refugees lie buried there. Photo: humedica

Julian feels helpless: „I can only do so much as a physician. We can treat epidemics, scabies, lice or inflammatory diseases. But we are not able to help people to get over their traumata.“

A big part of life in a camp consists of waiting: Waiting for the blue stamp, which brings you to Athens. Waiting for food, which takes three hours regardless which time of the day. And waiting to be treated by a physician.

„We have given out tickets for medical treatment. We were able to nurse 200 patients a day“, explains Stefanie. „Our shift started at nine in the morning. By this time people had already been waiting for two hours in a long line.“ Doctors, accommodation, food or toilets: In Moria everything is lacking.

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