January 9, 2019
Bulgaria: Providing The Freedom To Choose
The vast majority arrived by boat onto Greek islands such as Chios and Lesbos after completing the dangerous crossing from Turkey. Many made their journey onwards to countries such as Germany and France but as borders across Europe were eventually shut in an effort to contain the crisis, thousands of refugees were left stranded in Greece.
In addition, as a result of the global financial crisis and recession, Greece has been facing a dramatic increase in the percentage of ‘relative poverty’ as well as a constant shrinking of social benefits provided by the government.
Doctors of the World Greece, founded in 1990, has a long history in providing healthcare to refugees and other vulnerable communities such as unaccompanied minors and drug users. Today, Doctors of the World Greece runs numerous programs in response to the increasing health needs prompted by the socio-economic and refugee crises in Greece.
There are currently an estimated 54,700 refugees and migrants stranded in Greece – over half are women and children. 13,600 of them are stranded across Greek islands, and many have been forced to wait in temporary camps with limited knowledge of when they will be granted asylum to other countries.
Our teams in Greece aim to provide healthcare at refugee reception centers and through mobile health units in hard to reach areas. We provide access to primary healthcare, psychological support, and also focus on sexual and reproductive health – especially for pregnant women. Our teams regularly consist of doctors, nurses, pediatricians, and interpreters.
As well as providing access to healthcare to refugees, we also operate accommodation centers for unaccompanied minors. During the 2015 refugee crisis, it was estimated that 35% of those entering Greece from Turkey were unaccompanied minors.
These children are often extremely vulnerable to being trafficked, exploited and victims of violence. Our unaccompanied minor center in Athens provides children with primary healthcare, psychological support, legal advice, nutritional information and safe housing.
While the majority of our projects are focused on refugee and migrant communities, we also work on harm reduction with drug users. Working out of mobile health clinics, we aim to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases amongst drug users in the country’s capital Athens. We distribute clean needles, offer primary and emergency healthcare and provide HIV and HCV rapid testing. We also provide psychological support for vulnerable users.