refugees-in-lesbos

Coronavirus in Lesbos Spark Fears for Moria Refugees

A confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case in Lesbos has led to fears that an outbreak could occur in the Moria refugee camp, a camp bursting at the seams with thousands of vulnerable refugees.

Barely any medical care exists in the camp and hygiene levels are almost non-existent due to the little support refugees receive. Several NGOs have had no choice but to reduce or stop services due to anxiety around safety just this week, meaning conditions have considerably worsened already.

refugees-in-lesbos
Refugees trapped in Lesbos live in squalor and dire conditions. [Image: Elias Marcou/Reuters/The Guardian.]

Recent attacks on doctors and journalists have become commonplace by native citizens of Lesbos, angry as the number of refugees rise and the camp grows. NGOs have been blamed for the increase in migrants for “facilitating” their arrival.

It is the perfect set up for an awful tragedy when it comes to coronavirus

Dr Victoria Bradley, an Irish GP, recalled how men with cudgels – large pieces of wood with nails – smashed car windscreens in attempts to reach in and harm the medics. Once safe, they spent the night in the camp where refugees provided whatever comfort they could in terms of food and warmth. Even these little resources have become scarcer due to the violence.

The 20,000 strong camp has barely any shelter for those living in it meaning even a minor closure of the most basic of services can lead to serious, damaging consequences.

One female refugee, Sherzad, is a new mother with a 22-day-old child. She told journalists that the suspension of services has meant she could not access nappies, medicine and barely any food for her new-born baby or herself. Due to the lack of resources, she is struggling to breastfeed.

Médecins San Frontières (MSF) suspended services for two days due to the violence. Nurse activity manager Mie Terkelsen has spoken out about the types of sickness and disease in the camp due to its poor sanitary conditions.

If the virus spreads to the camp, the outcome will be catastrophic for thousands of refugees, NGOs and Lesbos itself

Terkelsen stressed that things are getting worse, saying “I’ve seen 13-year-old boys sleeping outside underneath the olive trees with pneumonia.”

It is the perfect set up for an awful tragedy when it comes to coronavirus. As many in the camp are sick and suffer from respiratory illnesses, if the virus spreads to the camp, the outcome will be catastrophic for thousands of refugees, NGOs and Lesbos itself.

NGOs are fearing for their lives while trying to attend to the many refugees in the area. [Image: Costas Baltas/Reuters/The Guardian.]

Dr Hana Pospisilova is a consultant cardiologist who regularly visits the camp as a volunteer medic and has been forced to send patients back to wet tents in the overcrowded camp despite their respiratory illnesses.

Refugees have no access to hot water and have to wait hours for any kind of food, which usually do not provide vitamins the body needs to have a strong and healthy immune system.

NGOs are utterly overwhelmed on a good day in a refugee camp like Moira

Sadly, NGOs are utterly overwhelmed on a good day in a refugee camp like Moira. When services shut, even for a day or two, it becomes unmanageable.

As COVID-19 spreads and the pandemic continues to affect the entire world, we know that those vulnerable are most likely to be seriously harmed by it. This includes refugees in refugee camps. They do not deserve to be abandoned. They don’t deserve to die.

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