Around 4,000 refugees are landing on the beaches of Lesvos every day, relieved to have survived the treacherous crossing from Turkey that has claimed so many lives this year. ActionAid Greece's Country Director, Gerasimos Kouvaras, describes the situation on the ground in Lesvos, and how our teams are helping women and children.
Gerasimos explains: “The first risk is the fact that they arrive being wet from the sea. Particularly now when it is getting to winter time, children have a specific need of dry clothes, blankets, warm clothes, but also immediate support like water and food.
“Then there are risks because they need to walk for miles. They maybe walk 40 kilometres.”
Our team in Lesvos is providing food and water to people who have just arrived on the island. We are working with other organisations on the ground to coordinate the response.
We are also setting up banners and maps along the coastine, so that people know where the registration points are and where to get help. We’re recruting information officers who speak Arabic, so that they can translate for the refugees and provide them with help and reassurance in their own language.
The impact on women and children
Gerasimos explains: “The children are the most vulnerable because they have lost all the security they had and worse is losing the security that your father or your mother can support you.”
Syrian refugees are sent to register at a reception site near the island’s port, Militini. There are no places in the camp for women to breastfeed in private, change after their long journey, get information, rest and talk in the city. We are creating a women-friendly space to provide this essential support.
“By supporting the mothers there, we support also psychologically and we strengthen the children as well,” says Gerasimos. “We met with women that have lost their husbands, they have left Syria with their children or grandchildren in their hands.”
Gerasimos says that the relief and gratitude of the women is visible. “You can see in their eyes, the sense of… the feeling of not being alone in this unknown situation. I think that the most important for them is the psychological support they get with us. This is what you can see in the eyes of the women.”
As the winter weather draws in, and makes the journeys even more difficult and dangerous, we will continue to support the most vulnerable refugees.