A few weeks back, I spoke to a young diabetic man with no insulin who in the desperate need to quench his thirst was forced to drink the refugee camp’s toilet water. I met a man with such severe PTSD after having survived torture that he would not eat, barely spoke a word, and spent his days and nights wandering the cemetery looking for his murdered family. Just last week, an 8-month-old pregnant mother who had just arrived on the island saw a doctor for the first time during her pregnancy at our clinic and asked us for a tent for her and her 4 young children sleeping alone in the streets. These are all too common stories for the people seeking asylum on the island of Samos, Greece.
I have just returned home after 6 weeks of self-funded volunteering with the Med'EqualiTeam on Samos. These weeks have been full of emotion, learning curves and new experiences that have changed my outlook on life. Please give me a moment of your time. I would like to tell you about the situation on the island.
Samos is a popular tourist spot located just a few kilometres away from Turkey. However, with the arrival of countless black dinghies and life jackets since 2015, the people of this island paradise have seen their home become an open air prison for thousands of men, women and children attempting to flee war, persecution, human trafficking, rape and torture.
When refugees arrive on Samos they are registered in the camp of Vathy. The structure was originally designed for 650 people, however there are currently over 5800 refugees fighting to survive in the camp and surrounding jungle. A devastating number of men, women and children are now living in overcrowded containers or makeshift tents infested with bugs. As you can imagine, hygiene is a major issue with growing mountains of garbage that attract rodents and snakes, and little to no access to clean water.
These people require medical attention. With only one doctor and a handful of nurses in the camp, and a single hospital for the whole island that only handles a few emergencies, the local facilities are completely overwhelmed and medical care is desperately lacking. It can take up to many weeks for these men, women and children to simply be seen by a medical worker, let alone receive treatment.
This is why Med'EqualitTeam's work is so crucial. This non-profit NGO was founded in the summer of 2018 by a doctor who came to Samos and saw the desperate need for medical care on the island. The clinic is run by a team of around 15 volunteers from all over the world (doctors, nurses, interpreters, and medical students) and provides immediate free primary healthcare to refugees from the Vathy camp.
Working 9+ hours a day, 6 days a week, the team struggles with the very limited resources available to provide patients with care that will make their daily lives more bearable. Patients arrive with extremely varied symptoms that can range from common complaints to vital emergencies: families with scabies, children covered in bed bugs or rat bites, chronic abdominal pain, headaches, PTSD, dental infections, diabetes, pregnancy complications, depression, malnutrition, insomnia, UTIs and STIs, respiratory infections, musculoskeletal pains from trauma ... the list goes on.
Having volunteered as a medical student in this NGO, I can assure you that not a single penny goes to waste. Every donation is used to keep the NGO running and to provide patients with the treatment they need. The clinic is also a rare safe space where every single person is welcomed, respected, cared for and heard ... something that patients themselves have often expressed the importance of.
Unfortunately, the situation on Samos is getting worse. With more and more new arrivals on the island, the number of patients that come to seek medical help in a single day has almost doubled in the last 6 weeks alone. The days are getting longer and our resources are running low.
Med'EqualiTeam and more importantly the thousands of people living in the Vathy refugee camp desperately need your help. I am appealing to your generosity. Please consider donating whatever is possible to this worthy cause and share this appeal as widely as you can. We need to raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis which has only been getting worse since 2015 with little attention and very limited support.
Every single donation matters.
All funds raised will be donated directly to Med'EqualiTeam.
(This campaign was created to determine how many people one volunteer could reach. Please feel free to donate directly to the website : https://medequali.team/make-a-donation/ )
Thank you for your support, Albane.