Palestine: Israel Poised to Demolish Village

As you read this, the Israeli government is preparing to demolish an entire village in the Palestinian West Bank. Over 80 international NGO’s and human rights organizations are calling for an urgent international response to prevent the demolition of Khan al-Amar village and the relocation of 130 people currently living there – more than half of whom are women and children.

Doctors of the World has been active in Palestine for over 18 years, specifically in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Our teams are particularly concerned about the psychological impact this demolition will have on the families who will be forced to relocate. “While most of the people we work with are in a constant state of stress, we know this displacement will have serious psychological consequences for the residents of the village – especially for the children who are particularly vulnerable,” reported Itziar de Miguel, head of Doctors of the World’s project in Palestine.

The United Nations has declared that the demolition of the village and subsequent resettling of its residents is a “forcible transfer” that would constitute a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War). Oxfam’s Palestine Country Director, Chris Eijkemans, says, “These alarming developments must be seen in the broader context of the continued annexation of Palestinian land by the Israeli authorities.”

In response to the threat, AIDA (Association of International Development Agencies) has called on the European Union, the United States and the rest of the international community to publicly condemn the demolition of Khan al-Amar and all other seizing of Palestinian land being carried out by Israeli authorities. Khan al-Amar is just one of 46 communities in the central West Bank (with a combined population of over 7,000) that the UN believes to be under risk of forcible transfer due to Israeli expansion plans.

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Photography © Bruno Ferts

Famine Threatens Millions Across Africa and the Middle East

Young girls in Borno state, Nigeria. © Reuters

We are on the precipice of another humanitarian crisis. The famine that is raging in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen is threatening the lives of millions of people. The crisis is urgent, complex and vast. Without swift action, alarming food shortages in Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, and Niger, could also spiral into crisis.

Crop failures brought on by climate change, combined with conflicts that have forced entire villages from their land, have caused the onset of famine in four countries across Africa and the Middle East. An estimated 20 million people – including 1.4 million children – are already suffering from malnutrition, and if the global community fails to act, the ongoing food shortages and widespread poverty in these countries will cause unthinkable suffering and unnecessary deaths.

As a member organization of Consortium 12-12, a Belgian non-profit platform, Doctors of the World is working to distribute food and water, provide medical care, improve hygiene and strengthen the agricultural capabilities of these communities in three of the famine-affected countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

Nigeria

Women in Borno state, Nigeria line up for treatment at a Doctors of the World clinic.

Since 2014, the north eastern state of Borno in Nigeria has been struggling to contain the extremist group known as Boko Haram. Over 20,000 people have died as a result of the insurgency and 2.6 million have been displaced. The medical needs in Nigeria are immense: 30% of medical facilities have been destroyed in the conflict, severely debilitating the health infrastructure in the area.

DotW’s General Director of International Operations, Jean-Francois Corty reported that “Boko Haram have continuously attacked medical facilities, targeting and killing medical personnel. There is a constant shortage of drugs and equipment. 90% of the current health infrastructure does not know how to treat cases of malnutrition in children. This is a humanitarian crisis that is quickly becoming forgotten.”

Since 2016, we have operated two mobile clinics in Borno state. We provide primary medical care to displaced communities and malnutrition treatment to children and pregnant women. After observing the situation, Jean-Francois added, “The population needs clean water, food and shelter. The situation is alarming and access to food is at serious risk, because people can no longer fish or breed cattle”. Doctors of the World has sent 10 tons of equipment to the area, but far more aid is needed.

Somalia

Schoolgirls in Bosaso, Somalia. © TIME

Somalia has been plagued by civil war for over 20 years, and 6.2 million people current live without food security. Doctors of the World has been working in the town of Bosaso in Northern Somalia in Puntland since 2011. There are currently 50,000 displaced people in Bosaso, including Somalis fleeing fighting in southern parts of the country and those fleeing fighting across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen. We provide medicine, equipment, and technical support to eight public health centers, and focus on primary medical care, and maternal and child health.

Yemen

A Yemeni refugee family in Khamer, northwest of Sana’a © NYTimes

The war in Yemen has claimed over 10,000 lives and left 3 million displaced since 2014. As a result, Yemen is currently facing the largest food emergency in the world and 65% of Yemenis currently do not have reliable access to food. The price of food spiked severely in September 2016, as the conflict in the country escalated. Around 7 million people in Yemen depend entirely on food assistance, with the rate of child malnutrition being one of the highest in the world. Doctors of the World began working in Yemen in 2015, focusing mainly on food security and child health. We now support 5 health centers and one maternity clinic in the governorates of Sana’a and Ibb. We also operate an emergency team, which provides assistance and emergency supplies to conflict areas.

Donate to support communities affected by the famine in Africa and the Middle East. For the latest information on the famine, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Working Together In Uncertain Times: A Message From Our Executive Director

A woman receives treatment at one of our projects in Iraqi Kurdistan.

This past summer, I was honored to take the position of Executive Director of Doctors of the World USA. I have spent a long career working for a variety of global health, human rights, and social justice causes, and have been present as an activist on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic since its terrifying early years. The opportunity to lead the US Chapter of the international Médecins du Monde network represents a culmination of much of what I have worked for.

Doctors of the World’s mission, principles and values, especially its commitment to advocating for healthcare as a human right for all, have never been more important. These are uncertain times in our country and around the world, when we must redouble our efforts to advance our life-saving work and resist policies that we believe contradict our values, whether it be supporting immigrants who simply want a better life for themselves and their families, the rights of women to freely make their own reproductive and health decisions, or opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would make healthcare a privilege available only to the few who can afford it.

The challenges we face may feel overwhelming – in many ways they always have been. But I can say with certainty that as advocates for evidence-based and sensible public policy, and for fundamental principles of humanity, we have the power to overcome the course of current events. I know this because I have seen it firsthand as an AIDS activist, and I am optimistic that, working together, we can do it again.

I am fortunate to work with a large and diverse team of experienced and dedicated humanitarian, medical, and public health experts who are carrying out our mission in more than 80 countries around the world today, often in unimaginably difficult circumstances. I hope you will join us in the coming year as we conduct the vital and difficult work that lies ahead. For the latest information on our projects around the world, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Fraser Mooney
Executive Director

Photography © Olivier Papegnies/Collectif Huma

Japan: Helping Communities Rebuild Post-Fukushima

On March 11th, 2011 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off of the coast of eastern Japan, triggering a devastating tsunami. Today, on the sixth anniversary of the disaster, we honor the thousands who lost their lives, the emergency personnel that led rescue missions and cared for the injured, and the family members who lost loved ones. 2,500 people are still reported as missing, their bodies have never been found.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami created water surges reaching up to 133 feet high, devastating many towns, prompting mass evacuations and causing nearly 16,000 deaths. During the natural disaster, the tsunami also flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant causing it to break down and begin to leak radioactive material. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding areas.

In response to the humanitarian crisis, Doctors of the World Japan immediately jumped in to support the health services in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. Our teams provided medical and psychological care in 16 shelters that housed more than 1,100 displaced Japanese from the surrounding communities.

While the earthquake and its aftershocks were felt across Japan, the areas most devastated by the ensuing tsunami were in the northeast of the country in the prefectures of Iwate, Fukushima, and Miyagi. In some areas, water surges reached towns 6 miles inland. As the earthquake and tsunami struck in the middle of the day while children were at school and parents at work, many families were separated during the chaos. Save The Children estimated that over 100,000 children were displaced by the events and more than 1,500 children lost one or both parents to the disaster.

Elderly communities were also heavily impacted, with those over the age of 60 representing over 65% of deaths since many were unable to flee to higher ground. In the aftermath of the tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear leak many elderly persons died after being abandoned in hospitals, retirement homes and their own houses. As heating and medicine ran out in evacuated areas, many perished as a result of being left alone without adequate food or resources.

Doctors of the World Japan continues to provide medical care and support local NGO’s in the affected areas. In Minamisoma and Shinchi, two towns in Fukushima prefecture, our psychiatrists and nurses work to strengthen local health services by providing counseling, primary healthcare and advocacy for those affected.

After the natural disaster and subsequent Fukushima nuclear leak, thousands were evacuated from their homes – some areas are still under an evacuation order. In the areas where the order has been lifted, only 50% of the pre-disaster populations have returned – many of the returnees are elderly people who had no other choice but to return.

In these isolated communities, cases of elderly mental illness such as dementia have increased rapidly. We now support local communities in building social outreach programs and group activity classes to assist dementia sufferers and those who are experiencing early signs and symptoms of the disease. For the latest information on our projects in Japan and around the world, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Madagascar: Protecting Health and Homes

Doctors of the World has been working in Madagascar since 1991 when we established our first Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation (DRRM) program to aid Madagascan communities. Today, we manage projects focused on three areas: maternal and child health, natural disaster prevention and mitigation, and complex child heart disease.

The country of Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa, is highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones and floods. These events regularly cripple the country’s infrastructure, including its transportation routes and access to health services. In turn, this has left Madagascar’s healthcare system fragile and outdated. The average life expectancy of a Madagascan is just 64 years. Despite Madagascar’s exposure to natural disasters, many homes throughout the country are not disaster-proof, which in turn leads to an increase in deaths, displacement, and the spread of infectious disease.

Since 2008, Doctors of the World has been actively involved in risk-reduction plans for local communities, specifically around the city of Vatomandry. As well as creating emergency plans, we have established a network of over 100 individuals who are trained in first aid and basic healthcare in the event of a disaster. In addition, we have trained local staff in surveillance protocol designed to prevent the outbreak of epidemics following an emergency. We have also assisted in the renovation of healthcare centers to ensure that they are cyclone-proof in preparation for future storms.

2009’s political crisis also had a deleterious effect on Madagascar’s healthcare system – which seriously impacted mothers and children. Modern contraceptive methods are difficult to obtain, resulting in high rates of unwanted pregnancies and terminations. The maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world – with over 353 women dying during childbirth for every 100,000 births due to the inaccessibility of birthing and healthcare centers.

To strengthen maternal and child health, Doctors of the World is currently working to improve emergency obstetric and neonatal care. We’ve performed over 18,000 antenatal consultations and assisted with over 10,000 births. Since 2014, our team has also led the NGO consortium on mother and child health in Madagascar with the aim of ensuring that the health of mothers and their children becomes a priority at healthcare centers across the country.

Since the mid-1990s, Doctors of the World has been working to prevent and treat child heart disease in the country. In developing countries such as Madagascar, it can be extremely difficult to gain access to the complex care needed for a child with heart disease. Only two hospitals in the country have the capacity to perform advanced heart surgeries. In addition, these treatments are prohibitively expensive and very few families are able to afford such care.

In order to address these issues, we partner with a surgical team from Reunion Island, a French island 500 miles east of Madagascar, who work alongside Madagascan teams in Antananarivo to train local surgeons and equip hospitals to handle complex cases of child heart disease. We have also trained the heads of numerous healthcare centers around the country to detect early signs of pediatric heart conditions and refer children to a hospital.

Whether it’s helping to build emergency planning systems or advocating for mother’s and children, our teams are committed to strengthening Madagascans’ health and livelihood across the country. For the latest information on our projects in Madagascar and around the world, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Photography © Bruno Fert & Myleene Zizzo

Iraq: 12 Miles From the Front Line

Hairan our psychologist, left, at work in Chamisku IDP camp.

Iraq has been blighted by ongoing conflict since the early 2000’s, however the rise of the Islamic State in the northwest of the country in 2014 has caused considerable chaos and loss of life. Since the group gained territory across large swathes of Iraq, more than 3 million people have become internally displaced (IDPs), or have fled to border countries such as Turkey and Jordan as refugees. Almost half of those fleeing have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, including thousands of ethnic Kurds, Yazidis and Syrians escaping the Syrian civil war. The conflict has significantly weakened the health infrastructure in the country, and over 35% of Iraqi doctors have fled the country.

Children at play in the ruins around Borek village.

In 2014, Doctors of the World launched operations in Iraqi Kurdistan to provide access to healthcare for displaced people fleeing the Islamic State. Our teams work alongside the Iraqi government to provide medical and psychological assistance to refugees and IDP populations, such as those living in Chamisku camp on the border with Turkey.

We we run mobile health clinic projects in the newly liberated areas around Sinjar, such as Borek village and our teams are also active in the southern governorate of Kirkuk, where we operate 4 mobile clinics. In 2016 we expanded our operations in light of the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, which resulted in the forced movement of thousands of people trying to escape the fighting between the Iraqi government and IS. We currently operate in once-small towns such as Kalata Farhahn, 12 miles from Mosul, where many have taken refuge.

A member of staff weighs a child at a malnutrition check up.

Several of the displaced Iraqis fled to Chamisku refugee camp – the largest IDP camp in northern Iraq. For the 26,000 residents of the camp, access to healthcare is extremely limited. Doctors of the World provides primary medical care, sexual and reproductive healthcare, psychosocial support and nutritional screening to identify cases of malnutrition in babies and children.

Many of our staff have fled the violence themselves, often living in the camps alongside their patients.

We provide 250 consultations a day in Chamisku camp, and many of our team are themselves refugees who live in Chamisku. Ghazwa Breassam, a mother of 2 children who fled Mosul with her family, provides consultations. “About one in ten women who come to visit us are pregnant and there are often complications with the pregnancies. Many have undergone tremendous stress due to trauma. Even though they are safe here, it’s difficult to carry a child and give birth in this environment. We provide advice on family planning and a lot of emotional support,” says Ghazwa.

A woman and her child wait for a check up in Chamisku camp.

Many of the people we treat have experienced significant trauma, and as a result require critical psychosocial support to help them cope. Most of our patients have witnessed shocking human rights abuses, such as acts of torture, executions and enslavement. In addition to providing individual counseling, our teams also provide group counseling sessions and psychosocial activities for children affected by the violence. We also conduct trainings for local medical and paramedical staff.

One of our staff plays a game in Kalata Farahn.

One of our psychologists working in Chamisku, Hairan Khalifa, fled with her Yazidi family to escape the Islamic State. Two of her cousins were killed, and the fate of her grandmother is still unknown. She currently lives in two neighboring tents with nine family members: her mother, her four sisters, her brother, his wife and her two nephews. Hairan believes that in her line of work, “The most essential thing is to listen to people. I often see patients three or four times and their story is usually similar to mine. I do not prescribe medication, but I try to give advice to reduce stress. I try to be positive, to say the right thing and to bring some comfort. If their condition worsens, then they see a doctor and sometimes go to the hospital.”

Hairan laughs with the children living in Chamisku camp.

While the fighting in Mosul rages on, it is likely that more people will flee. Hairan tries not to dwell on the fate of her family too much. “I hope one day we can leave this country, we have no future here”. But for now, she concentrates on her work in Chamisku – helping those fleeing the Islamic State to put the horrors of war behind them.

For the latest information on the situation in Iraq follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Photography © Olivier Papegnies/Collectif Huma

A Healthy and Dignified Life

“We believe strongly that every woman, by virtue of her humanity, has the right to social equality, economic equality, political equality, and perhaps most importantly to us, an equal right to a healthy and dignified life. The Gag Rule would deny that right to those who need it the most, and we vigorously oppose it.”

A statement by DotW President, Dr. Ron Waldman.

Read more HERE.

Gridlock in Serbia

Upon arrival at the border camps, people are sorted into three lists by the police: families, unaccompanied minors and single men. Many, especially single men, will wait in the camp for months before being summoned by border police to cross the border into Hungary or Croatia. They will then face another month of questioning before they are allowed to continue their journey; they are usually heading for Germany. Those who tire with waiting try to cross the borders illegally – but only a few succeed. Most are intercepted by the police and some are physically assaulted when caught. Despite this, many will attempt to cross illegally multiple times.

Serbia, the small nation-state at the center of the Balkans migration route – traveled by thousands of refugees and migrants since 2015 – served as an important transit point for many on the move. However, in September 2015 the Serbian-Hungarian border was closed, preventing many from reaching countries in northern Europe such as Germany and the UK. Currently an estimated 6,400 men, women and children are stranded in Serbia with little access to medical care or psychosocial support.

Many activists have described a “ping-pong” situation, “where people are being endlessly moved back and forth.” As winter deepens, thousands are being exposed to extreme weather conditions without protective shelter or warm clothes. Our Doctors of the World teams are on the ground in Belgrade, Šid and in camps across the Serbian-Hungarian border, working to ensure refugees receive the medical, psychological and basic care they desperately require.

In the makeshift camp of Horgoš near the city of Subotica on the Hungarian border, nearly 150 refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa struggle to survive. Many live in hastily constructed tarp tents with little access to sanitation systems. Our team, comprised of a doctor, nurse and translator, provides daily care for the wounded and sick living in the camp.

Nurse Nikolina Gligoric works in our mobile clinic. “I remember the situation this summer,” she describes, “when 700 people lived here. Some didn’t have shelter when it was 104°F. The children got severely sunburned, and to [cool off] they started bathing in a pool of stagnant water and caught skin infections. A 3-year-old Afghan child even drowned. We saw up to 100 people a day.” According to Nikolina, 140 migrants went on a hunger strike last August to demand that the border be reopened. “They went for 7 days without eating or drinking – in vain,” she says.

In Šid, Doctors of the World runs a medical clinic in the busy transit camp known as Grey House. Here, Dr. Milena Milojkovic reviews the medical records of Khadija, a 53-year-old Afghan woman who is recovering from a heart attack. “She has four different problems: poor heart health, high blood pressure, diabetes and an eye whose pupil is overly dilated. Her eye problem was caused by a bomb explosion in Jalalabad on her way home from the hospital.” In Afghanistan, Khadija’s family was threatened by the Taliban because her son worked for the Afghan government. Khadija fled 7 months ago with her 13-year-old daughter. “We crossed Iran and Turkey, but in Bulgaria we were beaten and thrown into prison. It was hard to find the strength to keep going,” she sighs.

Before arriving in Šid, Khadija spent six weeks in Serbia’s capital city, Belgrade. During the summer months, people camp in the parks of the city while they wait to pass through the country. Now that temperatures have dropped as low as 14°F, the parks are empty. Instead, migrants and refugees risk freezing to death as they sleep in car parks and abandoned warehouses for the second winter in a row.

For those who become sick while stranded in Serbia, Doctors of the World runs a health center in Miksaliste – a former cultural institute that has been converted into an aid center for refugees. According to DotW’s Dr. Bojana Bojanic, patients come from the camps near Belgrade or the city’s streets; respiratory or skin diseases are common. However, she says, “…about 20% of [the refugees] return from the border with wounds inflicted by the Hungarian police.” The center currently relies almost entirely on donations and is regularly threatened with closure.

Back at the border, Sabri, a 16-year-old Algerian boy, is preparing to cross into Hungary illegally and for the fourth time. He is a frequent patient at the Grey House clinic in Šid. “The last time I was assaulted by five Hungarian policemen,” he says, “But I am not afraid to do it again. I crossed Macedonia under a truck to get to Serbia. I want to join my brother in Germany and nothing will stop me.” Our nurse at Grey House, Zlatica Krstic, is concerned about Sabri. Hidden under long sleeves, his arms are riddled with cigarette burns. “After I left [Algeria], my 14-year-old brother was arrested and imprisoned. It’s my fault; it’s up to me to watch over my brothers and sisters while my father is at work.” Nurse Krstic worries that Sabri is burning himself to deal with the guilt of leaving his family behind.

Serbia is doing its best to aid the refugees and migrants who pass through, but the sheer size of the refugee population threatens to overwhelm the country’s financial resources and infrastructure capacity especially as neighboring nations have closed their borders. This is why international aid, such as the medical and basic needs care that Doctors of the World provides to refugees across Serbia, is so important. Without access to care or adequate shelter, thousands of people are increasingly susceptible to illness, and many run the risk of freezing to death. With 6,400 registered and more unregistered refugees and migrants currently in Serbia, many are simply hoping that spring arrives early this year.

For the latest information on the refugee and migrant situation in the Balkans follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Photography © Kristof Vadino & Todor Gardos

Turkey: Along The Syrian Border

Ayesha and her friends, all of whom fled the war in Syria.

We met little Ayesha and her mother, Um Ayesha, when we visited the UOSSM (Union of Medical Care & Relief Organizations) mental health clinic in Reyhanli, a small Turkish town near the Syrian border. Like most other Syrians in Reyhanli, Ayesha and her family fled to Turkey to escape the brutal war that has raged in Syria since 2012. Ayesha, a shy girl around four or five years of age, is being treated for depression, fear of abandonment, and other PTSD-related symptoms as a result of the conflict. She is not old enough to remember a time without war.

After 5 years of civil war, 400,000 Syrians have died and over 12 million have either fled the country or been internally displaced (often referred to as IDPs, or internally displaced persons). Access to medical care in Syria has been severely disrupted: less than a third of the primary healthcare facilities (PHC’s) in Syria are still functioning, the majority of health professionals have fled the fighting, and hospitals are commonly targeted by drone strikes. Doctors of the World has been working in Syria since 2012, and we currently have 83 active staff in the country who are working tirelessly to fill the gaps in national health services.

The view across the Turkish border of the Syrian town of Atmeh, now a IDP camp with a population of 50,000.

Outside Syria, the war has fuelled one of the most challenging refugee crises the international community has faced since WWII, with border countries such as Turkey bearing the brunt of the mass migration. Millions of families have crossed into Turkey and, while some have moved on to other areas of Turkey and Europe, many reside in small Turkish border towns like the ones we visited – Antakya, Reyhanli and Arac. The populations of these border towns have swelled since the beginning of the crisis: Antakya has grown from 200,000 to 500,000 and the Syrian town of Atmeh, once home to 200 people, has become a semi-permanent IDP camp of 50,000.

In total, Turkey is home to more than 2.8 million registered Syrian refugees – nearly half of which (1.3 million) are children and there are many more refugees who remain unregistered. In addition to our work inside Syria, Doctors of the World partners with organizations at the Turkish-Syrian border and throughout Turkey to provide free medical and mental health care to the refugees.

Our team’s notes on the movement of refugee families.

In Antakya, a Turkish town 70 miles from Aleppo, we have a team of 20 who oversee our operations in the area – including 5 Syrians who are themselves refugees. We support clinics – like the UOSSM mental health clinic that Ayesha attends – and hospitals, like the one where we met Majid, the father of a young boy being treated there. Emel Hospital, a rehabilitation center for those wounded in the war, sees 200 people a day and performs 2600 surgeries annually. When Majid’s youngest son was injured by a bomb, he left his older son and wife behind in Syria to make the dangerous trip to Reyhanli to seek treatment for the boy. The gravity of the situation was clearly visible on Majid’s face and in his words when we met them at Emel.

Our Turkish-Syrian Chief Medical Officer at Emel Hospital.

Yet, Majid’s family’s circumstances are not unusual; our team sees heart-wrenching situations like this every day. And in the small border towns of Antakya, Reyhanli, Arac and others, the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future. On our second day in Antakya – December 15th – the evacuation of roughly 50,000 civilians from the besieged city of eastern Aleppo began. Due to the city’s proximity to the Turkish border, we expect the numbers of refugees desperate to reach the relative safety of Turkey to increase in the coming weeks.

You can help us SUPPORT Syrian refugees by ensuring they have the critical medical care and treatment they need.

For the latest information on the situation in Turkey and Syria follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

Child Refugees: Kavala Camp, Greece

Since the refugee and migrant crisis began in 2015, thousands of families have fled war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and made the dangerous and often deadly journey to Europe, with the aim of building a better life for their children. In 2016 alone, 28 million children around the world were displaced by insecurity and violence; 3,000 of these children currently reside in refugee camps Greece.

Outside of the city of Kavala in Greece lies Kavala refugee camp, where hundreds of people – including 51 children – currently live. Many of the children in the camp have never attended school, nor have they been allowed access to Greek schools. In light of this, our team – who has been working in the camp since it opened in 2015 – has tried to ensure that the older children (12 and above) are at least involved in part-time educational activities.

Initially, our team coordinated with teachers from the city of Kavala who volunteered their time to teach the children in the camp. Soonafter, we partnered with a local organization called the Mohammed Ali Foundation that provided space and local teachers. The children receive three sessions a week: English on Tuesdays, Greek on Wednesdays, and on Thursdays they practice their new language skills through activities and excursions. Ideally, their new-found language skills will help them in adapting to their new environments.

In addition to providing schooling for the older children, our teams organize activities for the younger children. As DotW psychologist, Eleni Fitou, explains, “Activities for the younger children are very important. They are extremely excited about the chance to go to school, which is not yet possible; but this is an interactive and social learning session. Most of the younger children have never been to school, and this is a vital part of their development.”

In Kavala, we also partnered with Greek author Nikos Kalaitzides, who wrote the book The Journey of Halima. This children’s book draws on Syrian folktales and myths, and recounts the story of Halima, a young girl who travels through a number of unnamed nation-states on her way to Greece. According to DotW Community Mediator, Zoi Xynidou, “This book has been written for children who are refugees, by a Greek author…we wanted to have an event where it could be read.”

Our team in Kavala subsequently organized a reading and performance of the book for the children of the camp. As Zoi recounts, ‘It was a really good activity and this story was something they enjoyed. We also got them involved in painting and making masks of the characters. It helped to give the children an educational activity they can do socially as well.’

Many of the children living in the Kavala camp have experienced endless war, violence and even persecution. While our first priority is to ensure refugee children’s medical needs are met, our teams in Kavala are also trying to bring a sense of normalcy to these often turbulent young lives. Acquiring new language skills is an important first step.

For the latest information on the refugee crisis, or our work in Greece, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.

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Doctors of the World provides refugee and migrant families with critically-needed medical care in 28 locations across Greece. Currently, we are on the ground in Kavala, Thessaloniki, Larissa and Elliniko, and on islands such as Chios and Lesbos, among other places.