MARDi - healthcare for vulnerable migrants in Paris

MARDi - healthcare for vulnerable migrants in Paris

From Gemma Whyatt

From 8th - 14th July I will be volunteering in Paris with the charity MARDi: Medical Aid for Refugees and Displaced people. The money raised will go towards basic medical supplies and transport.

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Update #1

12 months ago

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far! I've got about £200 worth of supplies in my bag, and will be taking it all on the Eurostar tomorrow morning to Paris. There is also a video on my facebook page of the co-founder talking about the french refugee crisis and the work MARDi does, so check it out if you are interested!

More Info

MARDi is an international network of healthcare professionals that provide voluntary medical aid to refugees and displaced people living in refugee camps in Paris, France.  We provide first aid, basic medical care and triage in the camps with hospital advocacy for issues needing secondary care

More information can be found on the MARDi web page.

The current situation

Before Covid-19 there were estimated to be around 4,000 men, women and children living in unofficial refugee camps in the northern suburbs of Paris. Most of these people are fleeing war, human rights violations, poverty, and famine or drought caused by human-driven climate change. Many will have experienced trauma in their country of origin or during their journey to France. People from many Middle Eastern and African countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Niger now find themselves living rough on the streets of one of Europe's richest cities. The camps, mostly composed of tents and makeshift shelters, afford little protection to the people living inside them. As a result, the people suffer from the worst extremes of the weather. There is little sanitation and the camps build up with rubbish and are infested with rats. Privacy and dignity are difficult to achieve for everyone. The asylum application system is slow and hostile and people can spend a number of years waiting for a decision. It is a challenging environment in which to live, both physically and mentally and as a result of their poor living conditions and lack of support from the French authorities, the people are vulnerable to physical and psychological disease. As the languages most commonly spoken by refugees are Arabic, Pashto, Dari, Amharic, Tingrinya and German, this further makes access to support services, conducted in French, difficult.

When ‘lockdown’ occurred, the camps were disbanded and many people were taken to unofficial centres, with some still living on the streets in small groups of two or three. These people were unable to receive any help from the organisations that would visit the camps due to outdoor restrictions. As some of the restrictions loosened MARDi were able to set up a fundraiser and make small hygiene packs made up of soap, hand sanitiser and facemasks which we distributed at the food distribution sites around Northern Paris. This gave us insight to the number of people returning from these centres and now we have seen many of the camps reform.  At this present time we are unable to know how many people there are living in these camps but as the months progress we expect to see an increase in people returning and expanding the camps. Therefore, we know there will be a need for medical care as many people will have gone without for a long period of time through fear of going to hospitals and now back living in unsanitary conditions. 

MARDi volunteers aim to give help to refugees by visiting the camps to offer basic medical care, first aid, triage, referral and hospital advocacy. The majority of people present with common illnesses such as colds, flu, skin infections, musculoskeletal pain, gastric reflux and constipation. We also see more serious problems such as worsening of chronic conditions, leishmaniasis, tuberculosis, hepatitis and also complex injuries. In addition, we see cases of worsening mental health and mental health crisis. We treat problems where possible and refer on where necessary.

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Gemma Whyatt posted a new update:
12 months ago

Update #1

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far! I've got about £200 worth of supplies in my bag, and will be taking it all on the Eurostar tomorrow morning to Paris. There is also a video on my facebook page of the co-founder talking about the french refugee crisis and the work MARDi does, so check it out if you are interested!

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