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Making a difference with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos

Making a difference with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos

A Baylor College of Medicine doctor who hand-carried medical supplies with him on a trip to Lesbos, Greece, to help at a refugee clinic reported back to Medical Bridges, saying the clinic was "a scene out of the TV show M.A.S.H."

Medical Bridges provided supplies to Dr. Yunus Ahmadi for his visit  to Lesbos, a small island in the Aegean Sea that has been overwhelmed by thousands of refugees seeking new lives away from war-ravaged Syria and Afghanistan and other mainly Mideastern countries as they make their way to Europe. Most of the refugees escape first to Turkey, which is only six hours away from Lesbos by boat, and one of the primary reasons the island has been favored by refugees and smugglers. The journey is treacherous for most and even deadly for some.

"Every day, between 500 to 1,500 refugees arrive on what are best described as white-water rafting boats, with a capacity of 12-15, each carrying approximately 40 to 60 people," Dr. Ahmadi said.

 

From Dec. 26, 2015, to Jan. 2, he worked as a volunteer in a clinic - consisting of a triage area, dental suite, seven-bed "ward" and pharmacy - run by an NGO called Off Track Health in the largest refugee camp named Moria. 

Dr. Ahmadi remarked that the group of mostly European doctors he worked with saw, on average, about 200-300 patients a day. "Eighty percent of the cases we saw were cough, cold and flu symptoms, and the rest of the pathology included burns and wounds (from sea urchins), frostbite (from travelling through mountains), women's health issues, diarrhea and vomiting, diabetes - both Type 1 and 2 - and a few others that required transfer to the local hospital, including sepsis cases," the doctor said.

The doctor described conditions as "squalid," and said most refugees only stay for a few days on the island while their paperwork is processed and continue onward through Europe. "There are some longer-term refugees from countries including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran and a few North African countries."

Dr. Ahmadi, who is also part of the Pediatric-Newborn Section of Neonatology at Texas Children's Hospital, is appealing for more help from healthcare professionals in the United States.

"It is my thinking that a group of senior family and OB/GYN physicians with an ample number of translators would be beneficial," he said. "Once on the ground, these senior physicians can improve upon more sustainable measures, possibly improve relations with Greek physicians, and they can assist in the care of refugees."

According to news reports, almost half a million refugees made their way to Lesbos in 2015, and officials don't expect the exodus to the island to decrease anytime soon.

Because the need is so great, Dr. Ahmadi will return to offer his services again and extended gratitude to Medical Bridges for the supplies on this first trip.

"I want to thank you for your encouragement and support as I plan to continue to participate in these and other relief efforts," said Dr. Ahmadi.

 

 

Photo credit: Dr. Sherief Elsayed

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