So here comes the part that I didn’t write yesterday: 1st-2nd Jan. An eventful day, and a rather long post I believe. Here we go.
I decided to go to the camp some hours before my shift started, because I also wanted to spend a little time outside of the medical tent. My roommate and I walked directly to the inside, to see if there was anything that we could help with. It was like walking through a ghost town. Almost all tents were empty, there were no people at all queuing outside, and almost no one around in general. Outside of UNHCR, some people from Save the Children and other NGOs were playing with a few children. I think I saw more volunteers/employees than refugees there.
On my way back, a young man called for me in farsi and wanted to take a picture with me. Then he told his family members sitting around the fire that I was a doctor, and I was like ”no, no!” He must have been one of our patients from previous days, though I didn’t really remember him. I suck at remembering both names and faces, and we see a huge amount of patients every day. I think we had 300 patients the other day, when it was a calm day. Anyways, I spent some time with this adorable family and some other people hanging around, before they left to the bus to bring them to Mytilini, from where they can take a ferry to Athens, then a bus to Macedonia, and eventually to England, Germany, Sweden, or who knows.
At 16, I went to my shift in the medical tent. ”Can you not do the night shift tonight instead?” I was asked as I entered the tent, ”you can go home now and sleep”. I don’t mind night shifts but without a car, going back and forth to Mytilini was not worth it, so I just decided to stay. In the beginning, the tent was quite quiet and there were also a lot of people – interpreters, general volunteers as well as medics, so I just spent some time talking to fellow volunteers instead. It’s really interesting to hear about everyone’s backgrounds, we are so many different people – from teachers to firemen to business students to… We also had our first (I think) big meeting with all volunteers from the health tent. It was great to meet everyone, we discussed many important topics such as response to trafficking, following up hospitalisations and general structures within the tent. We asked about the possibility of having running water in the tent, the answer was ”not so realistic”. Wifi would be more probably (but it ain’t gonna happen).
During the handover for the night shift, I was told to take over the observation of one of our in patients – a boy with fever, cough and coastal pain. However, we soon realised, the situation was not so simple. He had said that he was 18, but it then turned out that he was 17. He was travelling alone, going to Athens because he had been promised work there by an ‘uncle’ – whom the doctor suspected was not at all an uncle, or a rather weird uncle, after talking to him on the phone. The situation became rather tense, and we began to suspect human trafficking. The boy explained that he comes from a very poor family, and he did not want us to tell anyone as he was afraid that the smugglers (or, the uncle) would hurt his family in his home country. In the end, we realised that he wouldn’t get any support as under aged anyways, as he was already registered as 18 years old. I’m not sure if that’s what he told the Frontex at the registration, or if the registration people just thought it would create less work. He received a phone, some money and instructions to keep in touch with us and to hide the phone as well as the money. I’m not sure if it was the best thing to do and if it will work, but I’m also not sure what we could’ve done differently.
We also had another teenage boy earlier that night, probably with a fracture in his lower arm – he was in a lot of pain, and could not move his fingers at all. We wanted to send him to the hospital for x-ray immediately, but there was one problem. He was from Morocco. He was here without his family, he had been in the camp for quite a while, and he had no idea what he would do or where he would go. Many things are heartbreaking here but most things has become a haze. But really, I don’t think that I’ll ever forget this boy, his terrible situation or the look in his face as he was no longer hiding the tears.
I think I mentioned previously, that Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians are not getting registered, and that instead, some were arrested? So in short, there was a fear that he would get arrested if sent to the hospital – even though I believe that would be completely against medical ethic and even international (or at least some kind of) law. Then, one doctor said that she had heard that Moroccans were being registered again, in order to get rid of them. Another volunteer went to ask the police, and was told yes – Moroccans (I don’t know about the other countries) are being registered again, in order to get rid of them. Registered and transported to Athens. Then, put on a direct flight back to Morocco. I’m very curious about the agreements and legal aspects of this, everything sounds just crazy. So many things here are crazy, I don’t know how many times I’ve been standing with my mouth wide open and staring at the person speaking because it’s so unbelievable, mostly regarding how the refugees are being treated.
Back to my shift; the beginning of the night was quite calm. I walked two other volunteers to the family compound because they had some business there, and on my way back we found some Afghan and Syrian young men who needed blankets, food and somewhere to sleep. As the medical tent was quiet, we tried to help them with these things. Single men can sleep in a huge tent own by the UNHCR, and as there were few people in the camp, there were some spots left in that tent. It even has some heaters in it, which made me happy. As buses began to arrive later that night, I also walked some families to the family compound. Then one time, a man came out from the compound as I left some families there. He was walking with crutches, and he said that he was going to get his bag. I thought that it looked inconvenient, so I decided to go with him. Then it turned out that he also needed medical attention, so we decided to also go to our tent clinic, together with one of his friends who also spoke English.
We ended up keeping his friend for about two hours as interpreter, as more people (buses) started to arrive and we were lacking Arabic speakers. He had also just arrived during the day, and his trousers, shoes and socks were still wet. ”It’s not a problem,” he said, ”this is nothing compared to the journey on the sea and what happened before”. In spite of our begging and nagging, he refused to change. ”I feel more comfortable this way,” he said.
We had quite some wet, cold, trembling people, coughs, wounds, and a suspected case of scabies. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has treatment for scabies but their clinic, on the ‘inside’ of Moria, is not open during the night. We gave him the contact details to MSF, and hopefully he went there the following day. Hopefully we will not have an epidemic of scabies at the camp – that would be… annoying. We also had a 1 year old girl with fever who was sent to the hospital because she had not been very responsive for some days. I also found a young man with looots of wooden splinters in his foot – from the boat, he explained. We spent about an hour trying to poke those out; he took the needle and stuck it under the splinter, while his friend and I took turns to pull them out without tweezers. It looked quite painful. Also, during this time there was a power shortage, so the entire tent went dark and cold. We worked with pan lamp, which was a bit cozy if I may say – though it was cold and disturbing for our work.
Then we had a man whose complaint I barely remember – ear pain, maybe. One thing though I do remember: the pictures on his phone, of a smiling little baby boy. His child, 5 month old, who passed away the night before at one of the camps. I don’t know that much more, there are too many rumours going around.
From somewhere after midnight and on, we had a constant flow of patients. We stayed a bit after the end of our shift, because it was quite busy.
Then I decided to walk over to the clothes distribution – the other end of the barn – and help out a bit there. The queue was enourmous, and there were not so many volunteers there. I like to be at the clothing distribution, but days like today it’s quite disheartening. We had arrivals all night, and the shops had been closed for two days, which meant that our storage was more empty than full. The people who had just arrived were on average also more wet than I had seen among other arrivals; almost everyone was wet to their hips, not only to their knees. But we had pretty much no trousers – only like XXL, while most of the men were quite small and slim. We had almost no shoes either, like always – instead, they are given dry socks and emergency blankets to put in their old shoes unless those are com
pletely useless. We had no gloves – had brought 10 pairs earlier but that was nothing, they disappeared in some seconds. We had no underwear and no hats.
Most people would ask for trousers, shoes and socks, because those are the wet items. And we would say ”sorry, we don’t have that”. Some would say okay, and move on, some others wouldn’t stop asking. ”But my shoes are wet,” they would say, ”look, this is all wet, that is all wet,” and we would answer that I know and I’m sorry, but we don’t have anything to give them. Sometimes they saw other people receiving clothes, and they would ask why those get things but not them, and we had to try to explain that those people didn’t have any shoes at all, or they were children or sick people. Many times, the discussion didn’t end until another volunteer more or less moved them away from the line. It’s sad, I wish that we could give dry trousers and warm shoes to everyone, but as the situation is now, we would run out of shoes and trousers in one minutes, and then we wouldn’t be able to give anything to the ones who need it the most. Did I mention that it’s also a dilemma when in the medical tent and your patients ask for new shoes? Because the medical tent volunteers can pretty much get whatever we need as long as they exist in stock, whereas the patients wouldn’t probably get it if they asked themselves.
After some hours at the clothes distribution, I went back to the medical tent and helped out a little bit there, attempting to translate a bit as we were, again, lacking interpreters. We had this man and his little son at the clinic, the mother had been in the hospital for 5 days. She was 5 months pregnant and had bleedings and complications, not sure exactly what the hospital has done. They wanted to go visit her, and in the end we decided to send them off in a taxi with a note for the hospital and enough money to come back. Then another man caught me outside of the tent, explaining that the rest of his family was in Skala (in the North), that they wanted to come here, and then he pushed a phone in my hand. I didn’t understand the problem at all, because everyone passes through Moria. Then he was talking about a child sent to the hospital, but I had no idea what he was talking about. I promised to call the hospital and get back to him. One minute later, he passed me the phone again, and a woman as confused as me was speaking on the other end. After a long while, we understood that his child had been sent to the hospital in Mytilini from Skala, and the family wanted to see the child and to reunite. We organised some taxis, and then I decided to leave the camp.
There didn’t seem to be any people going to Mytilini by car, so I decided to take a taxi. Three young refugees who had just arrived the same day came with me. They had nothing but the clothes that they were wearing and their most essential things in a small bag. Everything else was left in Turkey. Their parents had sent them some money, and now they wanted to go to Western Union in Mytilini. I helped them with that, and dropped them off with some food at a café with wifi before I went home to get some sleep (yay).