A call for help has made today the non-profit organization Medecines Du Monde, which is ringing the bell of the danger of an emerging and deepening humanitarian crisis in Greece in the coming winter months.
According to the President of the organization Nikitas Kanakis, after the increase in the number of Greeks, who are visiting the health services of Medecines Du Monde in Athens, Thessaloniki Hania and Perama because of loosing their jobs and therefore, the access to health services, as GRReporter wrote some time ago, now the great majority of them are threatened by food shortages.
“In our conversations with these people, we were shocked by the fact that many of them are looking for food. They are making it in a very dignified manner, but the fact is that they are doing it. That is why we have decided to call on all who responded to our request last March to supply us their excess drugs. Now we would like to help us with foodstuffs.”
These are basic foodstuffs like rice, pulses, pasta and oil. “We also need milk, baby food, diapers and other things for children. In a nutshell, we need things that will help these people keep their dignity. We do not want to see the number of people eating in free dining rooms to increase. Our goal is simple, yet very difficult: to make family packages for the poorest of our patients and to give these packages to them when they come. We will try to do it in the most delicate way, because many of these people have worked for more than 30 and 40 years and the fact that they are poor now does not mean that they differ from the patients who visit our hospital or private rooms.”
Nikitas Kanakis particularly emphasized the problem of poor nutrition in children. “Children who have feeding problems are visiting us. I am not saying that they are malnourished because this term may seem somewhat excessive from a medical standpoint. In no case we see pictures like those of Africa. But it comes to children who eat when, if and whatever they find. When we are talking with these children we see the phrase “Mom, I’m hungry” that we thought it would be heard in Greece never again has come back. Many children are deprived of the most basic things. Their families are not able to help them and at the same time, there is no state institution to which they can turn for help. It is these children, among which there are Greek children, we should help.” Another problem concerning children is immunization. “We need money to buy children’s vaccines. What should be obvious and in other countries that the child has taken the basic vaccines, is not valid in Greece. Parents of many children have no health insurance and they have to buy the vaccines, but they cannot afford them, especially those that cost 70-80 euros. We do not want old and forgotten diseases to return today. Moreover, we consider vaccination as a fundamental right of these children.”
Medecins Du Monde believe that when the number of people who every day eat in free dining-rooms in Athens has reached almost 14,000, the definition of “humanitarian crisis” should not be considered exaggerated. “These people are not the homeless and foreigners we remember from the past. These are all Greeks like us. More and more of them are seeking medical care and medicines by non-governmental organizations and more and more of them are digging in the waste to seek food. We want them to know that they can turn to us to help them even a little by listening to them, examining them and giving the first medication. I would like to say that if recently we all have been glad that we will help people in other countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and Turkey, to which a group will go soon, here in Greece we feel shame.”
Yannis Mouzalas, one of the 600 physicians who provide their services voluntarily, told about the change in the orientation of the Greek branch of the organization. “Last year, we sent 5 or 6 containers of food to Uganda; the year before the last we sent containers to Iraq and Haiti, and four years ago – to Somalia. This year and it looks like in the coming years too, we need these containers here. For us, Greece now is like an expedition abroad. Foreign organizations come and want to cooperate in this cause, as we do when we go into another country. There is a humanitarian crisis already in Greece and I think now we are just at the tip of the iceberg.”
According to Nikitas Kanakis, the affiliate network of Medecins Du Monde in Europe has already expressed their intentions to help and the members of the German branch have even sent medical equipment.
The organization called on the Greek doctors to help and devote some of their spare time to the needy. “We need pediatricians, surgeons, gynecologists, and psychiatrists. Very often, women, who are bearing the greater burden of the crisis and need psychological support, turn to us for assistance.” The organization has already formed groups for mutual support involving poor and unemployed citizens.
Medecins Du Monde have stressed on the fact that the inability of many Greeks to pay the electricity bill, which will include the extra property tax, would put them in a more difficult situation. “It is not my job to define the measure, but I think society would have to use all options to help these people. In most cases, we are talking about families of several generations living in one dwelling to reduce costs. Elderly parents support the families of their unemployed children with their low pensions. It would be really hard and pitiless these people to be left without electricity,” said in conclusion the President of Medecins Du Monde.