September 15, 2015

On Sunday September 13, a wooden boat carrying more than 130 refugees and migrants sank off the Greek island of Farmakonisi. Thirty four people lost their lives, amongst them four babies and 11 children. The people who survived the shipwreck were brought by the Greek Coast guard to the neighboring island of Leros. An MSF team from Kos was sent to Leros immediately to provide mental health support and medical care to survivors.

"People are shocked and terrified by the experience. There are people who lost their relatives, others who lost their children," says Vangelis Orfanoudakis, MSF coordinator. “Numbed by the horror of the shipwreck and the worry about the other people in their group who they do not see around (easily assuming they are gone), they only cry all the time or seem detached from their surroundings. With the help of our Arabic speaking cultural mediators, our psychologist is at their side, providing much needed psychological support. We try to make sure their basic needs are covered and stay available for those who wish to talk to someone.”

The MSF doctor and nurse have treated people with upper and lower respiratory tract infections often caused by sea water aspiration, acute laryngitis related to shouting and yelling for help, gastrointestinal diseases, and injuries in upper and lower limbs.

As more refugees continue to arrive on the island of Leros from Farmakonisi Island, the medical team is also providing medical care to newly arrived refugees and migrants.

“People are dying every week while crossing the sea to reach Europe. They should not have to risk their lives to find protection and asylum. Search and rescue efforts immediately need to be stepped up and the EU should provide safe and legal alternatives to these dangerous boat journeys," says Orfanoudakis.

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