Some just hope for the human touch
Others come for emergency treatment for injuries or chronic medical conditions.
But whatever their needs, Project HOPE is there. In Macedonia, a critical transit point for Middle Eastern refugees fleeing civil war, HOPE is alleviating suffering for the individuals, children and families that are enduring this crisis.
Samantha Mangovski, a Project HOPE volunteer, says that for exhausted refugees who have endured weeks without a square meal or a hot bath, her team offers more than medical care – they also promise a dose of humanity.
Since rising to the challenge nearly two years ago, Project HOPE has treated approximately 11,000 patients and donated more than a quarter of a million dollars in medicines and supplies, helping to reduce the critical strain posed on the country’s infrastructure by the influx of refugees.
HOPE is also at the forefront of the debate on how to address one of the global health community's most testing new challenges — the plight of urban refugees, who live not in conventional camps in deserts or rural areas, but in cities and towns, among host communities, who are often as poor as they are. Listen to our latest podcast that addresses this critcal issue.
In a refugee camp in Macedonia, an 8-year-old boy, who suffered a metal impalement to his hand while playing with friends, sat silently as medical professionals treated his wound and administered two shots. “We were surprised by the boy’s quiet reaction to the treatment,” said a volunteer on the scene. “We commented to his father that his son was very restrained compared to other children who came into the center for shots and treatments. His father gently lifted the boy’s pant leg and showed us a large wound on the boy’s right leg, caused by a bomb explosion, when he was just 5 years old.”
This is just another sad reminder of the devastating toll the refugee crisis has on the youngest generation.
Macedonia became part of the main transit route for refugees fleeing from war-torn countries to safety in Western Europe in 2015. Since the beginning of the crisis, approximately 1 million migrants and refugees have transited Macedonia, putting a strain on the country’s already struggling health system.
Project HOPE, which has been working to in Macedonia to improve health care since 1992, stepped in to help the expanding refugee crisis.
Since November of 2015 Project HOPE has shipped nearly $300,000 of donated medicines and supplies and sent 19 medical and support volunteers who have:
- Treated approximately 11,000 patients
- Donated 25,388 volunteer hours
Volunteers Work Around the Clock to Help
Working during the height of the crisis, Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Angela Troposka spent months in the transit centers caring for patients. “There were days when we had almost 100 examinations and interventions on a shift, sometimes up to 10 transports to the hospital and medical emergencies that kept us on our feet all day,” she said. “Sometimes we treated patients for high fevers from viral infections, other times we treated refugees with GI symptoms, and there were of course cases which required regular monitoring like chronic cases with hypertension problems, especially when the weather was hot and sunny. Besides the medical and pharmaceutical support, many of the refugees were in great need of psychological support in these dire times.” Watch Video
Caring for More than Medical Needs
For Samantha Mangovski, another Project HOPE volunteer, it is those times volunteers gave more than medical care that she will always remember. “As I was walking back to the ambulance I saw a male refugee exit the small facility. I politely asked if everything was alright when Dr. Angela Trposka told me the gentleman suffered from depression and just wanted to talk,” she said. “I realized in that moment that when a crisis on this scale occurs the attention is naturally placed on treating physical health ailments first. I personally had forgotten the victims would require emotional support as well. But not Dr. Trposka. In addition to her constant presence there to provide medical attention to the refugees, she also took time out of her day to sit privately with individuals to talk about their emotional issues, depression, and grief concerning the abrupt life changes they experienced. Throughout my day I witnessed acts of kindness that were not required of the volunteers, but given freely.”
“For the refugees who have traveled far and wide on foot, with and without shoes, in the rain, and heat, who have gone weeks without a hot bath or decent meal, Project HOPE volunteers gave more than just medical care. They offered pieces of humanity.” - Samantha Mangovski
In 2016, many countries closed their borders and the movement of refugees through Macedonia has slowed. But those that were in Macedonia at the moment of the border closings, approximately 1,000, are still in the transit camps on the southern and northern borders of the country.
While the situation is calmer now and the number of refugees is stable, at least in Macedonia, the flow of refugees and migrants coming or leaving does continue and so does the need for medical attention and intervention.