RMF Serbia’s team continued to provide holistic medical care and support to persons of concern:
The first morbidity report for 2017 covers a period of three months, from January 1st to March 31st. During this period, the outreach mobile medical team was operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The medical clinic in Adaševci is operating from 4:00 PM to midnight, 7 days a week, and the period covered is from the 1st of February to the 31st of March. (RMF began providing medical care at Adaševci on February 1st, 2017.)
Over the period of three months, with an average daily OPD of 67 patients, RMF provided a total of 5,939 health consultations to men, women, and children in Belgrade and Adaševci.
The first quarter of 2017 saw an influx of unaccompanied and separated refugee children (UASC) from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as high numbers of pushbacks from the Hungarian border into Serbia. The overall number of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants counted in Serbia averaged around 7,800, with 6,700 (86%) being sheltered in 17 heated government facilities. The others were sleeping rough (homeless) in the Belgrade city center, northern Serbia (near the Hungarian border), and western Serbia (near the border with Croatia).
During the first quarter of 2017, RMF Serbia maintained its support by cooperating with other humanitarian actors (UN agencies, NGOs, and civil societies) involved in emergency and crisis preparedness at the national and sub-national levels. In particular, RMF Serbia revitalized and supported the health coordination task force in “the Barracks” behind Belgrade’s main bus station to respond to acute emergencies.
RMF participated in monthly health cluster meetings conducted in Belgrade by the Ministry of Health and supported by the World Health Organization. The coordination meetings aim to improve the coordination of emergency health responses throughout the country. While it can be said that these coordination meetings require more targeted facilitation, they have been beneficial in acting as a platform for RMF to raise awareness of our current work. The meetings aim to support joint rapid health assessments, identify current health service provision gaps, and support the development of joint strategies to effectively respond to the current health crises among the refugee and migrant population in Serbia.
A total of 3,103 men, women, and children were examined and received primary, secondary, or tertiary healthcare services in Belgrade. A total of 2,836 men, women, and children were examined and treated at the medical clinic within Adaševci Transit Centre.
The most common diagnoses during this quarter:
Construction of Hungary’s new detention camps and a second electrified fence, which stretches 108 miles along its border with Serbia, are now underway despite virulent opposition from the UN, human rights groups, and* a European Court of Human Rights ruling*, which many hoped might halt the country’s determination to imprison refugees.
Many refugees face violence along the Hungarian border; humanitarian organizations say the treatment has become a feature of Hungary’s policy toward refugees, with warnings from the United Nations falling on deaf ears of the country’s government. Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher for the Human Rights Watch, said they have received numerous reports of police taking selfies with abused migrants and filming them, compounding the beatings with humiliation.
Serbia continues to face an increasing number of asylum seekers: since the beginning of the refugee crisis, 393,069 people were registered in Serbia. Since January 2016, RMF has been responding to the refugee crisis by providing comprehensive protection and medical services to persons of concern. Our team works in and around Belgrade providing 24/7 access to needed services. Our main goal is to provide first aid and basic primary health care for refugees in Serbia. Our team also has the skills to identify and refer extremely vulnerable individuals—women, children, victims of sexual or gender based violence, victims of human trafficking, or victims of other forms of exploitation—for appropriate assistance and follow up by relevant institutions.
A 9-month-old boy was referred to RMF doctors by the medical team working in a state-run refugee camp. The boy had presented with a fever, cough, and trouble breathing for more than a month. On various occasions, the infant was treated in the camp with oral antibiotics, but they had no effect. Over a period of three days, the boy’s symptoms became worse, and doctors from the camp requested support from our team. After examination and assessment, our team escorted the boy and his mother directly to the University Children’s Hospital in Belgrade. There, he was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia and was immediately admitted to the hospital. Doctors also noted that the infant was neurologically underdeveloped for his age.
According to hospital regulations in Serbia, the mother should stay in the hospital with her child. As she was a single mother traveling with two children, it was a challenge to provide facilities and accommodation for the second, healthy child.
The mother reported that her older son was being molested by the other family that they share space with in the camp. RMF’s team reported the incident to Serbian Social Services. We also provided provide diapers for the infant. After two weeks, he was discharged, full recovered. The family was transferred back to the camp. RMF provided a comprehensive report regarding the case to the camp officials, who were advised to call RMF in case the boy’s medical condition deteriorated.
In Belgrade city center, there are a number of young refugee boys who play their favorite sport: cricket. Our mobile medical team has treated a number of sports injuries. In this case, an 18-year-old boy from Afghanistan was playing cricket and fell on his right hand.
On examination, the wound was clean. However, it was three centimeters long, two centimeters wide, and one centimeter deep. Because of the wound’s depth, he was taken to the ER, where he received an anti-tetanus shot, antibiotics, and stitches.
In January and February of 2017, the weather and living conditions for refugees and migrants in Serbia were extremely hard. This was due to the low temperatures, sometimes as low as -16°C, and our beneficiaries’ ongoing exposure to the cold weather. During January, refugees and migrants in the Belgrade city center suffered severe forms of frostbite. Below is just one example of our cases:
A 16-year-old boy from Algeria was diagnosed by RMF’s team with frostbite on his right index finger. Due to the clinical appearance of second to third-degree frostbite, he was taken directly to the Clinic for Plastic Surgery at the Clinical Center of Serbia. In the clinic, the wound was cleaned, and ongoing dressings and follow-up indicated. We followed up with the patient for a month. Due to his age, situation of traveling alone, and fear of possible surgery to his finger, he did not comply with the prescribed wound dressing and other therapy, which resulted in deterioration of his condition.
The case was further compounded by the boy’s unresolved legal status in the country, which meant that hospitals refused to treat him. These factors led to further necrosis of the finger.
In February, it was assessed again, and decided that his finger required amputation. We feared that he could lose his whole hand. Surgery was scheduled and the amputation performed mid February.
At the end of March, we were engaged in treating many cases of skin infection, due to poor hygiene conditions in the informal, self-organized refugee camp “the Barracks.” One such case is of a 16-year-old boy who was bitten by a mosquito on the lower left leg. Despite antibiotic therapy, the bite developed into an abscess.
RMF provided referral services to a clinic, where incision and drainage of the abscess were performed. We provided daily wound dressing and therapy, and he made a full recovery.