Travelling Doctors of the World gynaecologist begins tour of refugee camps in Greece
Women at refugee camps in Greece are now receiving ultrasounds, contraception advice and services and check-ups, thanks to a touring gynaecological service begun by Doctors of the World. The organisation’s travelling gynaecologist has spent the last two weeks at Ioannina, in west Greece, and at Redestos refugee camp close to Thessaloniki in the country’s north, ending with two days at the Kavala camp in north-eastern Greece, and will finish August in Attica.
Lito Tzanaki, the first gynaecologist employed in Greece by DotW, has been working with women at the refugee camps from a mobile clinic which contains ultrasound equipment and provides a space for women to share their concerns, as well as receive check-ups and advice on sexual and reproductive health.
She explained: ‘My role is to come to meet the women and talk about their problems, as well as helping them wherever I can – wherever their health problems are gynaecological in nature. It’s important because of course the people here have the same health needs as anyone else, but living in a refugee camp means they do not have the same access as other people to these services.’
At Katsikas camp, a refugee camp near Ioannina where 789 Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish men, women and children are staying, (Redestos houses 1,226 Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish people; Kavala 156), the morning of 10 August ended for Lito with hugs and smiles, as a woman and her husband were told that she is pregnant, and that everything is going perfectly so far.
But the moment is also a reminder that the situation is precarious for people here – that lives literally hang in the balance at Katsikas and Greece’s other refugee camps, and that DotW staff like Lito are working in difficult circumstances to preserve and save lives.
She said: ‘It’s not just about pregnancy. There are also cases which require emergency endocrinological assistance, and those, too, need to take place at the hospital.
‘We have to recognise that people may be here for a very long time, so it’s vital we help to make sure these women are regarded by the hospitals as a part of the local population, and that they can be seen when it’s necessary, like anyone else. The alternative is that potentially serious illnesses and even injuries might go untreated. So far, the hospitals are working extremely hard to help.’
And Lito, along with the team of Doctors of the World, is also working to set up a full and secure gynaecological patient database, to ensure all DotW medical staff can be aware of patients’ medical histories if they are visited by them for consultation.
She said: ‘Part of the job I can do because of my role, training and equipment is to rule out gynaecological causes of pain and distress, which can help other medical and/or mental health workers discover the root causes of that pain or distress. It’s important because everyone deserves to be treated efficiently and effectively, regardless of where they live.’
DotW’s Sexual and Reproductive Health coordinator Celia Varela, added: ‘All SRH activity here in Greece is important. We have a situation in which tens of thousands of adults are living in very close quarters and without our work they might not get to see anyone about their sexual health needs, which could be disastrous.
‘Our gynaecologist is a part of a much wider focus on sexual health, and the services which people need.’
*The program is funded by the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid Department.