During 2015, Europe witnessed the largest movement of refugees since World War II. Since then, the situation has perpetually escalated, with the number of people fleeing war in the Middle East and arriving in Europe continuing to increase dramatically.
- In January and February of 2015, 11,834 refugees arrived in Europe by sea.
- In January and February of 2016, more than 131,000 refugees have arrived by sea and 418 deaths have occurred in that same short time period.
Despite unilateral action being taken by various countries in Europe, the migrant route has not changed a lot. Migrants arrive by boat from Turkey to a Greek island and then travel to Athens. From there they make their way to the northern border of Greece where they cross into Macedonia. At one point, thousands of refugees and migrants were passing through Macedonia’s two refugee transit centers on a daily basis en route to other European Union (EU) countries. Unfortunately, because of a ‘domino effect’ happening in central Europe, the action of one country at their border affects all other countries along the route.
Macedonia has now had to greatly reduce the number of refugees allowed into the country. This in turn has caused a ‘traffic jam’ at the border between Greece and Macedonia (a non-EU country). There are now more than 7,000 refugees stranded in a camp at the Greek border in Idomeni that is equipped for 1,500 people. Some of the refugees have been at the camp for more than a week. Crowded conditions at the camps are causing frustrations and unrest.
The Greek military have established three other camps near Idomeni. Each camp is equipped to manage 2,000 people. All three camps are already full.
At Macedonia’s northern border with Serbia there is now a camp at Tabanovce with 1,400 refugees waiting to cross into Serbia. Approximately 300 people are being held at the camp because they cannot obtain entry for travel into the EU countries.
Project HOPE has been actively responding to the refugee humanitarian crisis since September of 2015 with the goal of improving health care for the refugees. In close collaboration with the Macedonian Ministry of Health (MOH) and devoted donors and partners, HOPE has delivered five shipments of medical aid, including vaccines, medicines and supplies to be used to support the refugees passing through Macedonia.
Teams of Project HOPE volunteer doctors and nurses have also been deployed to the two border transit centers in Macedonia to provide medical treatment for those in need. Currently, two teams of doctors and nurses are working 12-hour shifts at each of the border transit centers.
From the beginning of 2016, the HOPE volunteers and medical staff supporting the refugees traveling through the country have treated more than 1,000 patients, mostly children with illnesses such as fevers, and head lice, and adults struggling from illnesses such as bronchitis and diabetes. A new volunteer team, consisting of a doctor, nurse and a logistician which began helping at the northern border on March 15, reported treating more than 50 patients on the very first day.
The Macedonian hospitals in the nearest towns next to the refugee transit centers were already struggling with a shortage of medical personnel before the refugee crisis began. The increased need for medical personnel to help manage the medical needs at the refugee transit centers is adding additional stress on the Macedonian health system. Project HOPE is working to secure a third team of local Macedonian volunteers to provide additional support.
One of the challenges the volunteers face is the transport of the patients that need to be hospitalized, because many of the refugees are refusing to leave the transit centers for fear of being separated from their families.
“We are here to help in any way we can and happy to provide care to these people suffering from severe diseases and illnesses,” Project HOPE volunteer, Dr. Angel Trposka told me.
The Macedonian MOH is truly grateful to Project HOPE for the support provided by the donations of supplies and the volunteer medical assistance that is helping to reduce the huge burden the refugee crisis is having on an already stressed health system.
Project HOPE will continue monitoring this grave humanitarian crisis and providing needed medicines, medical supplies and volunteer support, thanks to your help.
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