Médecins du Monde-Greece has been supporting moving populations in Greece since the beginning of the refugee crisis and is now working in a total of 28 sites throughout the country. Among the programs they are running is “Emergency response for moving populations throughout Greece”, a major program that was launched in April 2016 and is funded with an EU Emergency Support grant to MdM-Belgium. It is a joint action of five MdM delegations: Greece, Belgium, France, Spain and United Kingdom. Seven months into the action, MdM takes stock on the progress made in mental, physical and sexual-reproductive health.
Close to 11.000 consultations since April 2016
MdM acts through its fixed clinics and mobile units to cover medical needs in the camps. The teams consist of doctors, nurses, midwives, psychologists, social workers, data collectors, interpreters and drivers. In parallel, dental and gynecological mobile units visit the camps, accompanied by a pediatrician if needed.
A total of 10.929 consultations have been conducted so far by MdM. In detail: 9.332 Primary Health Care examinations (PHC), 767 Sexual and Reproductive Health consultations (SRH), 361 concerning Mental Health (MH) and 469 dental visits.
Of the people examined, 53% were female and 47% male. The majority (65%) were 15 years or older. The top 3 countries of origin were Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
General health of refugees and migrants in the camps
The general health of refugees is good. Most problems detected are linked to the journey people have made to reach Greece and to the difficult living conditions in the camps: accommodation, sanitation, water, etc.
The most common health issues are respiratory infections (25%), orthopedics (13%) and dermatological problems (13%). MdM teams also reported some chronic diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, serious handicaps) that are treated in collaboration with the National Health System. For these cases, MdM set up referral teams to fill the gaps in terms of transportation from/to hospitals and interpretation.
Sexual and reproductive health are key issues in the camps
During the first six months, MdM’s activities with midwives and gynecologist included, among others, care for pregnant women and lactating women, information about and provision of contraception, detection and treatment of vaginal infections and referrals of complicated pregnancies to hospitals.
MdM will continue to provide these services while also focusing on family planning, promotion of contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, support in case of unwanted pregnancies or cervical/breast cancer and information concerning menstrual/vaginal hygiene.
Mental health related problems on the rise
MdM provides psychosocial support to refugees and migrants in camps in group sessions or individual consultations. Residents of the camps are increasingly presenting symptoms of depression, anxiety, complex trauma or self-inflicted harm, possibly linked to prolonged stays and the lack of activities in the camps, as well as the loss of traditional roles within a community. According to MdM, involving refugees and migrants more actively in decisions about life in the camps (community meetings with camp managers), promoting productive activities or facilitating their coping mechanisms (cooking, learning activities, workshops, access to libraries and sports) could improve the mental condition of the populations in the camps, help them rebuild confidence and have a productive role within their community.
MdM’s psychologists and social workers will continue to assist refugees over the coming months and will also support community initiatives to increase the well-being in the camps in Greece.
The European Commission wants every single refugee and migrant to have access to basic health care. This is the case in all 12 locations MdM is covering. Psycho-social and mental support is a priority for the European Commission, as well the improvement of the living conditions in the camps.