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Vaccinating over 2,000 refugee children in Moria, Lesvos

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Nurse Katerina prepares for the vaccination of a young boy at the MSF clinic next to Moria camp, Lesvos, 9 May 2018. © Faris Al-Jawad/MSF

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will conduct a multi-antigen vaccination campaign for all migrant children aged under 16 on Lesvos island from 21 to 23 November, in collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Health (MoH), the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP), and Médecins du Monde (MDM). MSF calls on the Greek Ministry of Health to set up routine vaccinations for all refugee children across Greece.

Due to the terrible living conditions, including the lack of basic sanitation, severe overcrowding, and extremely limited access to healthcare, coupled with the forthcoming winter, migrant children living on the Greek islands are extremely vulnerable to illness.

“The conditions in the camps are completely unacceptable and as a result, children are at a greater risk of getting seriously ill,” says Dr Declan Barry, medical coordinator for MSF in Greece. “With winter approaching, it is essential that all refugee children, who are susceptible to infections, are comprehensively vaccinated. It is every child’s right.”

Since the beginning of the year, MSF has vaccinated 476 children in Vial camp on the island of Chios and 1,300 children in Moria camp on Lesvos against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. In addition, since August, MSF teams have vaccinated over 200 children for MMR in the reception centre in Fylakio, Evros, on the borders with Turkey. MSF will continue the vaccination campaign by vaccinating all children on the island of Samos in early December.

On Lesvos and Chios, MSF teams treat hundreds of children every day with upper-respiratory tract infections, skin infections, and diarrhoea, as well as mental health issues. These issues are all consequences of the unacceptable living conditions in the camp, as well as a lack of access to decent food and healthcare.

In Moria camp on Lesvos, the number of doctors fluctuates between one and two, for 7,500 people, including 2,000 children. In Vial camp, on Chios, there are no permanent doctors and no translators present for over 1,200 vulnerable people where around half the population are living in summer tents as winter approaches.

“It is absolutely vital that the MoH urgently delivers on its promise to increase its medical capacity across all migrant and refugee camps in Greece, in order to provide much-needed healthcare for traumatised and vulnerable people,” concludes Dr Barry.

MSF continues to call on the Greek authorities and the EU to improve the living conditions for all people stuck indefinitely in the hotspots and calls for the emergency evacuation of all vulnerable people to safe accommodation on the mainland and other EU countries.