The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 22

DC Global Health
Team Returns
from Refugee
Crisis in Greece
PHILIP CANDILIS, MD

F

or the past three years, Greece has been at the
crossroads of the largest migration the world has
seen since the end of World War II. With more than
two million displaced persons fleeing war zones
and famine into Europe, islands such as Chios and
Lesbos have seen thousands of families crash onto
their shores in overloaded rubber rafts with insufficient fuel to
cross the sea. Overwhelmed local communities, the Greek government, aid agencies, and European non-profits all struggle to
manage the needs of a desperate population facing desperate
times. At the same time, Greek communities dig out from their
own economic and political crisis.
A team from The George Washington University and Saint
Elizabeth Hospital returned from the crisis after offering clinical care, consultation, and training to the refugees and the
over-burdened agencies managing their care. With experience
in disaster relief from Iraq and Haiti, to Japan and China, the
team of physicians, Emergency Medical Technicians, and other
professionals not only offers care but also training in combatting the post-traumatic symptoms that inevitably arise from
being on call 24 hours a day in a disaster zone.

22

|

THE AHEPAN ยท Fall 2017

Experts in a segment of psychiatric medicine called "resilience training," the team works with Greek non-profits and
others to offer assessment, psychological first aid, stress
management, and other techniques to manage the excruciating demands of humanitarian relief work. Aid workers suffer
significant emotional exhaustion, burn-out, and post-traumatic
stress as a result of a combination of long hours, absence from
family, and brutal narratives of trauma and violence.
One young team leader from Doctors without Borders, for
example, described her own experience translating the report
of sexual assault from a refugee who had sacrificed everything
for the dangerous journey. It was as if she were experiencing
it herself, she said. A Greek attorney case-managing 36 unaccompanied children broke into tears telling of the unrelenting
challenges of finding family members who were still alive.
Healthcare and administrative systems are not built to withstand acute crises that become chronic and persistent.
For Greece, the stranding of over 60,000 persons within its
borders creates a crisis of shelter, food, and clothing for those
who have lost everything and never intended to stay. Yet the
ironic closing of borders historically intended to encourage
trade and travel creates a backlog of visas and bureaucracy
that cannot be resolved without greater resources and personnel. Some have given up and returned home to violently
broken nations and communities, while others undertake
more dangerous and illegal crossings. For their Greek hosts,
the traditional impulse to help comes as the entire nation
faces the aftermath of austerity measures and persistently high
unemployment.
The Washington, DC team has visited Greece annually the
past three years not only to support local aid-workers and
refugees, but also
to witness and
report the results
of the historic
crisis for those
who
remain
connected
to
their homeland.
Human
resilience is truly an
inspiration, but
even the strongest human spirit
has its limits.

www.ahepa.org


http://www.ahepa.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Ahepan Fall 2017

The Ahepan Fall 2017 - Intro
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 1
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 2
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 3
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 4
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 5
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 6
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 7
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 8
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 9
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 10
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 11
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 12
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 13
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 14
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 15
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 16
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 17
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 18
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 19
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 20
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 21
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 22
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 23
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 24
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 25
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 26
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 27
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 28
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 29
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 30
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 31
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 32
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 33
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 34
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The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 37
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 38
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 39
The Ahepan Fall 2017 - 40
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