Israeli disaster medicine expert aiding refugees in Greece

September 24, 2020

After a fire destroyed a refugee camp housing 12,000 people, the WHO recruited Dr. Elhanan Bar-On to help set up healthcare services in new camp.

Dr. Elhanan Bar-On, director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response, was recruited by the World Health Organization to help rebuild medical services for refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos following the blaze that destroyed the Moria Refugee Camp housing more than 12,000 Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees.

The Greek government and local and international partners have constructed a new tent camp where about 9,000 of the refugees have been resettled so far.

Bar-On and other medical teams tapped by WHO landed on September 17 to begin setting up basic healthcare facilities in the refugee camp, including Covid-19 testing. Bar-On expects to be there until October 1.

The Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response was established at Sheba Medical Center in 2017 to respond to global humanitarian crises, mass casualty events and natural disasters. The team has handled emergency situations from Haiti to Zambia.

Also on September 17, Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID — which has been providing medical, educational and psychological support to refugees on Lesbos since 2015 — distributed 100 family hygiene kits and 25 baby kits to families from the destroyed Moria Refugee Camp.

An IsraAID worker handing out hygiene kits to refugee families in Lesbos. Photo: courtesy

“The antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer and masks — made by refugee volunteers in northern Greece — provide basic relief amid the current crisis,” said IsraAID country director Sarah Danby.

She added that the IsraAID team is in daily contact with one of the teachers from the School of Peace run by Israeli aid groups just outside Moria Refugee Camp until it, too, burned to the ground last March.

“He and his family are living on the streets in the area on Lesbos blocked off by the police. We delivered a box of food and hygiene items to the family, but their situation is dire. Despite this, our teacher has been encouraging our team, wishing that he was able to join IsraAID in its response efforts.”

Another Israeli NGO, Natan International Humanitarian Aid, has volunteers in Lesbos mentoring young refugees who are organizing outdoor activities at makeshift locations around the island for children.

“Our plan for the coming months is to rebuild the school, with an increased capacity of 250 students, aged 6 to 16,” Natan reported.

In addition, Israeli NGO SmartAID is supplying dozens of tents to refugee families who do not want to be inside the camp.

Published September 24, 2020 Israel21c

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