Children fall sick in squalid conditions of Greece-Macedonia border camp

Migrants at the Greece-Macedonia border queue for hours to have their sick children examined by medics, as aid agencies warn that squalid conditions are taking their toll on the makeshift camp’s vulnerable residents.

IDOMENI, GREECE (MARCH 4, 2016) (REUTERS) – As migrants continue to arrive at a makeshift camp on Greece’s border with Macedonia, aid agencies are warning that the increasingly squalid conditions are making people sick – and it’s the children who are suffering the most.

Around 13,000 people are currently stranded at the border camp, where rain, freezing temperatures and condensation are constant features.

The tents being used by the migrants are too thin to keep out the cold and they provide no protection from the winter rain.

Sanitation facilities are scarce and shortages of food, water and basic supplies are taking their toll on the camp’s younger residents.

“For about two days, anything she eats, water, tea or food, anything at all, after that, after five to ten minutes, she throws it all up,” said Hazi Mohammad, a refugee from Iraq, as a volunteer doctor examined his daughter, Hani.

On Friday (March 4) volunteer doctors at the border camp said the appalling living conditions had caused a whole range of illnesses, from colds and flu to hypothermia.

“So there’s an awful lot of respiratory coughs and colds, throat infections. It’s generally just from having so many people in one place. Obviously these things are very infectious and spreading,” said Thomas Friday, a doctor at a mobile unit at the camp.

“You can clearly see that the living conditions are affecting the health of the children. When it’s raining and they don’t have shelter, they will be cold, they will catch a cold, they will catch respiratory diseases. When the weather is cold you can see that the cold is really bothering them, we have had a lot of children with hypothermia as well because they didn’t have enough shelter. The hygienic conditions when there’s 12,000 people aren’t optimal, so we see a lot of diarrhoeal diseases as well,” added Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) doctor, Cecile Van de Kontinenburg.

The temporary camp was designed to accommodate 1,500 people, but there are now at least 13,000 migrants sheltering there, including many infants and children.

Doctors are working around the clock but say they are struggling to cope.

“I think the biggest fear is that we cannot help everyone, that there will be someone left behind, that there is not enough time to treat everyone, there is not enough tents to shelter everyone, maybe there is not enough food to feed everyone. Those are basic things that everybody needs but if we lack them, it’s the children who are going to suffer first,” Van de Kontinenburg said.

Greece has been a primary gateway of migrants flooding into Europe for more than a year.

Thousands are now stranded there as a result of progressive border closures further up the “Balkan corridor”, the route taken to get into wealthier central and northern Europe.