Emergency Medical Assistance to Refugees and Migrants - Lesbo, Greece and Lampedusa, Italy

Project location: GREECE, Lesbo, Lampedusa
Project start date: March 2016 - Project end date: September 2016
Project number: 2016-003
Beneficiary: Rainbow For Africa Onlus

The situation in Lesbos Island and along the Balkan route was comparable with a humanitarian catastrophe. The island was the first gateway to the European continent for hundreds of thousands of refugees: the 80% of the people that continued the road trought the Balkan ruote stopped here. Over one hundred thousand people arrived in Lesbos just in October 2015 and, since the beginning of the autumn, the total arrivals have exceeded the whole arrivals in Italy in 2015, with an average of 4000 per day. On the island the healthcare support was minimal. Moreover, there was not the support in emergency-urgent treatments for children and pregnant women. The “registration centres”, transformed in refugee camps, overflow horribly: women, men, elder, children sleep anywhere in the open by roadsides, among the olive trees, nearby the port of Mytilene. During the night the temperatures are plummeting down.

In order to address this problem and to ensure assistance to the refugees and the local population, Rainbow for Africa sent to Lesbos Island health and education teams and organized training programs for volunteers and local doctors. Moreover, Rainbow for Africa sent a 4x4 van equipped mobile clinic with diagnostic equipment such as ultrasound, electrocardiograph and a small laboratory.

Since April the flow of migrants on the Greek Islands is gradually declined from the peaks reached up to 4000 / day to less than 50 persons / day on the islands at the end of May. This is certainly the effect of the agreement between the EU and Turkey, but preventing the passage of the flow of refugees through the Balkan route you can not prevent escape from the country of origin, this until will not be discontinued the war activities that cause this exodus. The consequence is the change of the refugee route through northern Africa.
For this reason, from June 25 we are withdrawing our staff from Lesbos in anticipation of a re-deployment in Italy for rescue and medical reception of refugees crossing the Channel of Sicily.

The main problems raised concern in particular the following points:
•    Health care very poor, many volunteers have not first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills;
•    Lack of support in emergency treatment-urgency in children (in particular with advanced states of dehydration and possible malnutrition) and pregnant women;
•    Lack of specific programs to protect children;
•    Lack of intercultural mediators to facilitate the operations of emergency after the landing of the boats;
•    Lack of coordination for the signalling of particularly vulnerable persons;
•    Lack of support to the local population, now exhausted physically, psychologically and economically by the uninterrupted transit of hundreds of thousands of people with serious consequences on the tourism that is the main economic resource of the island.
•    After UE-Turkey accord R4A shifted the project from Greece Island to South Mediterranean Sea to search, rescue and care the boat people

Rainbow for Africa has a branch dedicated to the emergency response to health crisis (Rainbow Crisis Unit) that has already intervened in Haiti during the post-earthquake and in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. The expertise acquired during previous experiences in the course of humanitarian relieves, the availability of trained personnel and the relations with other international actors present on the site (WAHA and UNHCR) allow Rainbow for Africa to operate with speed and competence.

This project, which received a grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, will achieve:
1.    The availability of health and education teams to ensure assistance to the refugees and the local population and to train volunteers and local doctors;
2.    Preparation of a 4x4 van equipped mobile clinic with diagnostic equipment such as ultrasound, electrocardiograph and a small laboratory;
3.    Search, rescue and care boat people in Sicily Sea in front of Lybian coast

Objectives, goals and timeline

  • From March/April 2016
    • Strengthening of the available resources, with increases in health teams, sending a second-equipped mobile unit equipped for performing ultrasound examinations and simple and small interventions and with the availability of a small laboratory.
    • Strengthening of the island medical clinics, providing equipment and training programs in order to improve health offerings to the Greek population, in partnership with the Medical Council of the island of Lesbos.
  • From April 2016
    • In relation to the evolution of the international situation, R4A have re-locate d personnel and vehicles in other places in Greece Island.

As had been planned, R4A has started working from July 2016 aboard the ship ELPIS based in Lampedusa.
From August due to technical problems of ELPIS ship, we have transferred the relief activities on board the ship Iuventa (in partnership with the German NGO Jugen Rettet) based in Malta. We have done missions until the end of November when the ship returned to port for winter maintenance.

Rainbow 4 Africa, and other NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Sea, came into action when it became clear the failure of the European Mission Sophia, with a large number of lives lost at sea, to prevent further deaths.
Rescue operations conducted by Rainbow 4 Africa in collaboration with "Jugend Rettet NGO" in Channel of Sicily respond to the law of the sea, the SOLAS Convention and the Italian and European legislation.
All operations are coordinated by the Maritime Rescue Coordination National Center (MRCC) in Rome. After completing the landing operations, the rescue migrants are entrusted to Italian and European authorities.

Result :
During these missions (in the Channel of Sicily, a few miles outside the Libyan territorial waters) R4A has rescued more than 4,000 people,  among them a lot of women (even in advanced pregnancy) and many children.

R4A has given relief to many people with the following conditions:

- hypothermia
- From fuel burns
- drowning
- pregnancy
- Wounds gunshot
- torture
- Pediatric diseases
- dermatitis
-  Respiratory diseases

In March 2017, finished the winter maintenance work, we will return to sea to continue the rescue

Rainbow4Africa will continue the SAR mission in Mediterranean Sea with some found from ACRI Foundation (italian banks) and try to save lives. The actual  cost of the mission is very high (fly to Malta is more expensive than Lesvos, medical monitors have big problem with humidity and salt, every boat rescued have on board 100 or 150 people to warm, give food and water and medications) but the mission will go on… to save lives.

think global, act local
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