What if Corona breaks out here?

Grave situation for refugees on Lesbos island

by Sebastian Zausch,  2020/03/19

The "Life vest graveyard" of Camp Moria on Lesbos island gives an idea how people suffered on the run. Photo: humedica

„ It would spell disaster, if a Corona infection occurs here in the refugee camp, “, tells us Rebekka. At the moment she works as a medical team intervention member for humedica and the Netherlands organization „Bootsvluchteling“ in the biggest refugee camp of Europe in the Moria village on the Greek island of Lesbos. „People live here tightly packed, mostly in huts built provisionally from wooden pallets and tarpaulins. An adequate isolation would not be possible here.“ There are no figures available for the exact number of people currently living in this camp, which was planned to accommodate approximately 3,000 people. Estimates place the figure at more than 18,000.

Rebekka and her colleagues wearing protective equipment in the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo: humedica

Rebekka and her colleagues treat many patients with flu-like symptoms – also due to the many chronic diseases in the refugee camp. „Furthermore, it was very cold at the beginning of the week. People were freezing in their tents. Now many of them have a cold.“ Who shows symptoms, which suggest Corona, is separated immediately. „Every day we transfer one or two suspicious cases to the local hospital. But till date all tests have been negative – Thank God!“, Rebekka is glad to tell, not least because there are not enough intensive care beds for the potential treatment of the refugees on the island.

The people in Moria know what to do to protect themselves from Corona. Only – it is simply not possible to guarantee the necessary hygiene standards and enough room to keep the needed distance in a refugee camp. „We have a certain stock of protective equipment for us helpers“, reports Rebekka. „But nobody is able to tell how long this will last if there is a real outbreak of Corona in the camp.“

A child died in a fire at the camp. The flames spread at incredible speed. "It is hard to stand by and watch when people, who have next to nothing, also loose the little they have left", says Rebekka. Photo: humedica

Medical helpers, too, are needed urgently. Due to the worldwide Corona pandemic medical professionals are indispensable in their home countries. „Just a few days ago two practitioners have been ordered to return to their home country almost right after their arrival“, informs us Rebekka. Others do not get the necessary exemption certificate by their employers. And even those, who have the time to help the refugees on Lesbos island, are obstructed by complicated travel conditions and quarantine regulations. „We are a good team“, reports Rebekka and praises the cooperation of the various aid organizations. „But unless more physicians arrive quite soon, the medical care of the people here in the refugee camp will deteriorate. What will happen to all the chronically ill patients, who for example need regularly insulin? What if Corona breaks out here?“

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Header photo: Tessa Kraal, Bootsvluchteling

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