Mon, Sep 14, 2015 - Page 6 News List

EUROPEAN REFUGEE CRISIS: Medical workers warn of disease risk in Hungary

AFP, ROSZKE, Hungary

Medical workers at the Hungarian border on Saturday warned of desperate conditions for pregnant women and the risk of disease spreading at the under-equipped camp where thousands of refugees are streaming in daily.

A huge outpouring of sympathy from across Europe has brought dozens of vehicles loaded with aid supplies from Britain, Austria, Germany and elsewhere to the filthy camp in the border town of Roszke.

However, while blankets, clothes and food pile up around the muddy fields, doctors said they are worried about the lack of sanitation and medical supplies.

“When you have no running water, no way to clean and people are arriving with contagious diseases, you have a problem,” Doctors Without Borders site team head Teresa Sancristobal said.

A priority for the doctors on site is pregnant women, many of whom have walked for weeks on their journey from the war zones of the Middle East.

“We have a lot of pregnant women who are just exhausted and can’t take it anymore,” said Sarah Schober, 28, a medical student leading a volunteer team from Vienna.

“All we have to give them is magnesium and small doses of schnapps for the cramps, and there are very few field beds for them to rest,” she said.

Exhaustion and dehydration are common. One volunteer described finding a 12-year-old girl who had walked several kilometers with a broken knee after being hit by a taxi in Serbia.

An over-stretched UN refugee agency has organized for more toilets and cleanup operations, but faces big challenges as government buses are slow to move refugees on to registration centers, leaving thousands to sleep in the fields every night.

“People are shitting and peeing between tents, because there is nowhere to go. With the warmer weather, we are one step away from an epidemic,” Schober said.

Volunteers have struggled to find storage for all the clothes donated, many of which have ended up strewn around the squalid site.

“We had a 22-tonne truck show up unannounced yesterday,” British volunteer Mark Wade said. “That’s great, but we don’t know what to do with it.”

And looming over everything is the fear of what happens tomorrow, when the Hungarian government says it will completely shut the border and arrest anyone who tries to break through.

“We are doing all this planning, but it could all be for nothing come Tuesday,” one charity worker said.

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