BURLEY-in-Wharfedale GP Dr Sarah Hattam recently returned from a humanitarian trip volunteering in Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos with a small team of Yorkshire volunteers.

The purpose of their trip was to distribute food, provide basic health and hygiene education and run a programme of activities for the children. To show the refugees that they are not forgotten.

Her she recounts her experiences.

“The sun is barely up and already hundreds of women are queuing in a frenzied attempt to secure basic provisions of food and water for their families.

“This process takes up around eight hours of every day. Children wander unaccompanied around the camp and 140 refugees share each toilet.

“This is the daily reality of life in Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos where refugees from mainly Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq continue to arrive in their droves.

“Conditions in Moria are shocking. The camp, which was only ever intended to temporarily house 3,000 refugees, is now hugely over-crowded with numbers topping 13,000.

“Raw sewage flows down the road and new arrivals sleep on the tarmac because of the shortage of tents. Others sleep in containers called ISO boxes with as many as four or five families sharing a confined windowless space.

“Children have tooth decay, headlice, scabies and rat bites and there are reports of young children self-harming because of the trauma they have witnessed. This is an ongoing humanitarian crisis with the small Greek island of Lesbos itself buckling under the strain.”

The female members of the team of volunteers initiated a project to teach English to the refugee women in the food lines, taught basic first aid and distributed hundreds of reusable sanitary pads made by local volunteers as well as portable continence devices.

The latter reduce the need for women to leave their tents during the night to use the toilets thus avoiding the risk of gender-based violence.

“Moria has had a profound impact on me,” added Dr Hattam who works at The Grange Park Surgery in Burley. “The narrative around the refugee crisis has become rather polarised.

“Whatever one’s views on the crisis and current UK policy, on the continent of Europe in 2019, there are thousands of men, women and children with lives on hold indefinitely in what can only be described as a living hell.”

The group of volunteers are now looking for people to sew or donate money towards reusable sanitary pads for the women in camp. Get in touch with Dr Hattam via Grange Park Surgery or email: Sarah.hattam@bradford.nhs.uk or donate online at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sarah-hattam-2

* The camp unfortunately hit the headlines on Sunday September 29, the day after the group of volunteers left, because of a huge fatal fire, which led to further unrest.