Wintertime for many brings thoughts of celebration, holidays, time spent with family and sledding in the snow, but for those trapped in refugee camps, where below freezing temperatures can make simply surviving a daily struggle, winter is the darkest time of the year...
This time last year, we were still in camp Drama - the snow had started to fall on the nearby Bulgarian mountains and the refugees continued to live without heating...the children and elderly were getting sick with pneumonia and angina attacks as temperatures dropped to below zero. Sadly, this year, many who had hoped to be in better places long ago still remain stuck and forgotten in worn out camps that are ill equipped to deal with their needs. Sinatex is one such camp, where people live in makeshift housing inside a warehouse and hand-wash their clothes in cold water and use leaky, worn out containers as their shower and toilet facilities.
~ Siyana Shaffi, Medical Director, Dec 2017
In some areas of Northern Greece, temperatures can reach minus 18°c, and hypothermia and frostbite are not uncommon. Overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions cause disease to spread quickly, and the cold weather exacerbates illnesses such as respiratory infections and influenza, which, if untreated, can become life threatening for the most vulnerable. In January this year, three people – two of whom were in their 20s – died within a week in Moria camp in Lesbos. In November, a 5-year-old girl died in the same camp as a result of complications from an untreated illness that was made worse by the cold conditions. Such deaths are avoidable, but over the next few months, there will likely be more.
The need for medical charity presence is greater than ever during the winter, but refugees are not receiving the help they depend upon, and many suffer needlessly as they do not have access to adequate healthcare. The Greek Authorities are failing to respond to the crisis: camps remain overcrowded and unprepared for winter, with people living outdoors in tents or in makeshift shelters with little insulation or heating. EU funding has run out for big organisations such as UNHCR and IOM with no plans for replacement, and The Red Cross will also be terminating their services in January next year.
Kitrinos Healthcare is one of the few remaining caregivers in refugee camps in Northern Greece, and we intend not only to stay but also to expand our services further afield. We will continue to work hard over the coming months to ensure that everyone in our camps receives the medical care they so desperately need this winter. Our clinic in camp Sinatex is open throughout the week and our amazing team of qualified volunteers are working tirelessly to provide high-quality care for this vulnerable community.
We know that money can be particularly tight around this time of year, but if you can, please spare a little to support our work so that we may continue to provide healthcare to those living in refugee camps in Greece during this difficult time.
Support our winter campaign here.
Feel free to share this post to spread the word. We appreciate all the support you can give – even the smallest amounts will help.
Please don’t forget the refugees this winter.