Posts Tagged ‘refugee camps’


Photo: Elias Marcou/Reuters
Migrants from the Moria camp in Lesbos, Greece, use their skills to sew protective masks.

A friend posted on Facebook a Patch.com request for people with sewing machines who might be willing to make surgical masks. This particular call to arms is local to Massachusetts (read), but you might find a similar opportunity near you. All Hands on Deck!

In Greek refugee camps, residents who have already known a ton of hardship are on the case: they know that they’re not likely to get much protection from outside.

Katy Fallon has the story at the Guardian: “In some of the most dangerously overcrowded Greek refugee camps, it has become a race against time to raise awareness about Covid-19 and ensure an outbreak does not spread among an already vulnerable population.

“In the infamous Moria camp on the island of Lesbos close to 20,000 people live in a space designed for just under 3,000. There is is already limited access to running water in the camp, and toilets and showers regularly block due to overuse. The first case of Covid-19 was confirmed on the island last week when a Greek woman from the town of Plomari tested positive. So far [March 18] this the only confirmed case on the island.

“There is an increasing sense of urgency in Moria about hygiene and handwashing. In the absence of support from the Greek authorities, residents are taking matters into their own hands.

 ‘The conditions were out of control and so we knew that we needed to do something by ourselves,’ said Deen Mohammad Alizadah, 30, originally from Afghanistan.

“The members of the team are a snapshot of the diverse population of Moria, heralding from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and the Congo region, each dispensing advice to their own communities. …

“Due to high demand, face masks are currently in short supply in pharmacies in the local town of Mytilene, and since there is no current mass distribution of masks to the camp, industrious Moria residents have come up with their own solution.

“In a small building around a kilometre from Moria, a group of four Afghan women have volunteered their time to sew face masks for the camp’s population. Stand By Me Lesvos, a Greek NGO, realised that they could make use of the sewing machines from a previous project.

‘It was set up within six hours on Friday,’ said Mixalis Avialotis from Stand By Me Lesvos. ‘One of the Afghan women used to be a tailor in Kabul and said she’d have no problem managing the operation.’

“The women are working at a rapid rate and in their first day made approximately 500 masks, which are fashioned from cotton fabric bought from local shops. The masks are then packaged into plastic wrappers purchased from the local Lidl supermarket and boxed to be brought to the camp. The masks, which will be given out for free, will initially only be distributed to camp residents who start to feel unwell or exhibit symptoms of the virus, such as a cough. …

“On the island of Samos where the refugee camp hosts nearly 7,500 people in a space designed for 648, conditions are similarly cramped. … Guilia Cicoli, co-founder of Still I Rise NGO, which runs a youth centre for children living in [camp], told the Guardian that they had spent a lot of time speaking to the children about Covid-19. The children have also produced posters about hand washing and hygiene in class.

“ ‘Most of us are Italians so we took it very seriously and started awareness raising before Greece even had any confirmed cases,’ she said. ‘Before we had to close last week we had already replaced handshakes with elbow or feet bumps.’ More at the Guardian, here.

Meanwhile in the US, some hospitals feel like they are on their own, too: “Medical staff in one of the nation’s epicenters of the novel coronavirus outbreak have resorted to creating makeshift masks to care for patients, Bloomberg News reported.

“Washington state hospital workers, part of Providence St. Joseph Health system, are improvising protective wear by crafting masks out of marine-grade vinyl, industrial tape, foam and elastic bought from craft stores and Home Depot, the outlet reported.

“Washington state has the highest death total from covid-19 and the second highest total of confirmed cases.” Read this.

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At Smithsonian magazine, Tom Downey explains why urban planners could learn a thing or two from a Hindu religious festival that occurs every 12 years.

“I arrived by taxi at the Kumbh [in India] at sunset, expecting throngs of cars, cows and human beings blocking all access points. Instead I glided comfortably into my camp, which sat on a hilltop. I looked out over the fleeting city before me: makeshift shelters constructed on the floodplain of a river that was sure to overflow again in a few months. …

“I’d come to witness the spectacle for myself, but also to meet a group of Harvard researchers from the university’s Graduate School of Design. Led by Rahul Mehrotra, an architect from Mumbai before he went stateside to teach, they would closely analyze this unparalleled feat of spontaneous urban organization.

“ ‘We call this a pop-up megacity,’ said Mehrotra, a bearded 54-year-old. ‘It’s a real city, but it’s built in just a few weeks to instantly accommodate tens of millions of residents and visitors. It’s fascinating in its own right, of course. But our main interest is in what can we learn from this city that we can then apply to designing and building all kinds of other pop-up megacities like it. Can what we see here teach us something that will help the next time the world has to build refugee camps or emergency settlements?’ …

“The Kumbh Mela works in a way that most other Indian cities do not in part because everyone is on their best behavior: Civil servants know that their careers will be defined by these few weeks in the national spotlight; members of the public arrive with a sense of purpose and community.” More here.

I think it goes to show that when large numbers of people are basically on the same page about the importance of something, miracles happen. Loaves and fishes get shared. People pick up their litter. Everyone feels they’ve been part of something big.

Photo: Alfred Yaghobzadeh
Cooks at the Hindu festival worked to feed millions.

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