International Medical Corps, which has actively assisted Syrians inside their country and in neighboring countries since war there began in 2011, is now mobilizing resources to expand its efforts and those of its partners to meet the escalating needs of refugees in the Mediterranean and Europe.
Its efforts, along with German partner Wings of Help, will include activities such as: distribution in Hungary of urgently needed humanitarian supplies like blankets and hygiene kits; procurement and distribution of supplies in Greece; deployment of mobile medical units in Greece; training and surge capacity to local partners in the region; and meeting additional needs of refugees in the weeks ahead.
To date in 2015, an unprecedented number of refugees and migrants – approximately 366,000 – made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to reach Europe, far surpassing the 219,000 who arrived in all of 2014. The vast majority have landed in Greece, placing significant strain on the country already in the midst of a financial crisis. Those arriving are primarily fleeing conflict and insecurity; an estimated 90 percent are refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“Having previously fled conflict and insecurity, refugees making their way further into Europe are already vulnerable when they arrive,” said Chris Skopec, Senior Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response. ”After surviving a physically and emotionally painful journey, many are in need of food, water, medical care, psychosocial support, basic supplies, and other critical humanitarian assistance. Without a common approach to the influx, countries along the route have been overwhelmed by the volume of people, resulting in escalating tensions and upheaval at border crossings and transit stations.”
International Medical Corps deployed a team to the Greek Isles in late July to assess humanitarian conditions among newly arrived refugees and migrants. The team found that reception centers are overcrowded and inadequately equipped to provide safe and sanitary accommodations; individuals and families need access to primary health care to address a range of diseases; pregnant women lack adequate prenatal and obstetric care, placing themselves and their children at risk; a lack of public toilets and safe drinking water is leading to an increase in disease; and the need for mental health care is urgent.
International Medical Corps has extensive operations throughout the Middle East, having become the first international humanitarian organization allowed to work inside Syria in 2007. It has also continued to operate in Iraq since the war began there in 2003 and throughout the conflict involving the Islamic State, in addition to delivering assistance to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.