Filed Under News 

European Public Health Crisis: Sick, Desperate and Soon Freezing


Winter is coming: the new crisis for refugees in Europe


Fleeing violence, millions of innocent Syrians are trapped in situations where disease and poverty threaten children and families seeking refuge in settlement & refugee camps. From Lesbos to Lapland, refugees are bracing for a winter chill that many will never have experienced before. Some will have to endure it outside

Record numbers of migrants and 1) ___ have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in October through December 2015 – just in time for the advent of winter, which is already threatening to expose thousands to harsh conditions. The latest UN figures, which showed 218,000 made the perilous Mediterranean crossing last month, and 6,000 more arrive each day to Greece, confirm fears that the end of summer and soon the end of fall, has not stemmed the flow of refugees as has been the pattern in previous years, partly because of the sheer desperation of those fleeing an escalating war in 2) ___ and other conflicts.


The huge numbers of people arriving at the same time as winter, is raising fears of a new humanitarian crisis within Europe’s borders. Cold weather is coming to Europe at greater speed than its leadership’s ability to make critical decisions. A summit of EU and Balkan states recently agreed to some measures for extra policing and shelter for 100,000 people. But well over 700,000 refugees and migrants, have arrived in 3) ___ this year along unofficial and dangerous land and sea routes, from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa and beyond. Tens of thousands, including the very young and the very old, find themselves trapped in the open, as the skies darken and the first night frosts take hold. Hypothermia, pneumonia and opportunistic diseases are the main threats now, along with the growing desperation of refugees trying to save the lives of their families.


Editor’s note: According to one of our relatives living in Germany, 1 million refugees have been admitted into Germany alone. Fights have broken out over blankets, and on occasion between different national groups. Now traffickers are following the columns of refugees, picking off young unaccompanied stragglers.


The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, is distributing outdoor survival packages, including sleeping bags, blankets, raincoats, socks, clothes and shoes, but the number of people it can reach is limited by its funding, which has so far been severely inadequate. Volunteer agencies have tried to fill the gaping hole in humanitarian provisions in Europe. Human Rights Watch, has said that all along the route into Europe through the 4) ___ “there is virtually no humanitarian response from European institutions, and those in need rely on the good will of volunteers for shelter, food, clothes, and medical assistance.“ Europe has found itself ill-prepared to deal with its biggest influx of refugees since 5) ___. It is a race against time and the elements – a race Europe is not guaranteed to win. “There is a risk of collapse,“ said Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief. “Either we take this big step and adapt or yes, we do have a major crisis.“


The fighting in Syria seems to have no end- one example of families trapped in deteriorating camp conditions, is the one in this photo.




Their infant and all relatives, have died and their home is destroyed. Only days before, their young son (on the right) fell and broke his arm. There is no pain medication or doctor to perform the surgery he needs in order to heal. Authorities will not let the family through, to start the grueling trek through Europe to a final destination until paperwork is processed. Amidst its own economic crisis, Greece’s resources are severely strained. Some refugee camps are only designed for 200, yet thousands are trying to survive in them, without adequate sanitation, food or 6) ___. These camps are becoming ticking time bombs of disaster. Pregnant women, children and the elderly, require special care and medication.


Medical Teams International’s primary goal in Middle Eastern war zones is health outreach. Basic health and dental care prevents and reduces the impact of disease on children, women, and men in refugee settlements. Additionally, they train volunteers to provide health services at mobile medical units. Missing are psychologists providing much needed counseling, treatment and medication for childhood and adult trauma victims of 7) ___. International medical teams like Doctors Without Borders, are focused on the largely unmet need of chronic and preventable problems e.g. dental, cardiovascular, respiratory, diabetes, as well as surgery. In Greece, the situation focuses on meeting the deadly infrastructure strains facing refugees in registration camps. The lack of clean 8) ___ and sanitation in crowded, makeshift settlements is an urgent concern. Diseases like cholera and polio can easily spread ? even more life-threatening without enough medical services. Mercy Corps is currently addressing the urgent needs of nearly 4 million people both inside Syria and in neighboring countries. We have the second-largest operation inside Syria, next to the U.N., reaching an estimated 500,000 people every month. Water shortages have spiked. Hospitals and schools don’t have enough water to maintain sanitation standards.


One story out of millions of similar refugee stories


According to Michael W. Doyle, who heads Columbia University’s Global Policy Initiative, one problem is that all we have now is an asylum system designed at the end of World War II, to take in a few thousand citizens. This inadequate system is now confronted with an exodus of millions every year. Government aid budgets don’t extend to those amounts, and the wider aid community simply doesn’t have the means to manage so many disasters at the same time, aid agencies say. An unusual, deadly convergence of wars and 9) ___ change disasters erupting around the world, (not to mention robotics putting people out of work), pushed the number of people displaced from their homes to 59.5 million by the end of 2014. (and that doesn’t count the numbers of refugees in 2015). “We are all stretched beyond the breaking point,“ said Andrea Koppel, vice president of advocacy at Mercy Corps. “We don’t have the people, let alone the money, to meet the needs of all those who have been affected. There aren’t enough people, including 10) ___ and their assistants, with the skill sets to deploy to those places. The international donors are stretched. There just isn’t enough to go around. “And we are asking ourselves the question, is this the new normal? And if so, what do we need to do to cope?“


ANSWERS: 1) refugees; 2) Syria; 3) Europe; 4) Balkans; 5) WW2; 6) medicine; 7) PTSD; 8) water; 9) climate; 10) physicians



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.