By Jenni Jeskanen, Finnish Red Cross

Two-month-old Damhad Khalil didn’t make a sound when Hellenic Red Cross nurse Dina Gouti measured his head circumference, wiped his nose, and placed him on the scales.

“Six kilos and 230 grams,” she announced.

The baby’s weight is in line with standards set by Greece’s Ministry of Health. Damhad’s mother Hayad Khalil is relieved – her baby is eating well.

The Syrian family is staying in Exohi – a mountain village near Thessaloniki. The Hellenic Red Cross mobile clinic is working there to provide health care to resident refugees. Nurse Gouti, pediatrician Ekaterini Lalaouni and interpreter Omar Albelbeisi visit the Khalils’ newborn baby every second week.

A Syrian new born baby in Thessaloniki, in urban setting being taken care by Hellenic Red Cross pediatrician Ekaterini Lalaouini. Thessaloniki, Greece. Family moved from one the northern camps to an urban setting, something that is an aim in the future, urbanisation. 7.4.2017 / photo Maria Santto / Finnish Red Cross


Damhad’s parents Hayad and Muhammad, and his siblings nine-year-old Mazim, seven-year-old Nour and two-year-old Lamar are living in two rooms inside what was once a guest house. Their apartment is crowded for a family of six but Hayad is relieved that the family is out Polikastro camp where they lived in a tent for seven months.

In Polikastro, up to 4,000 people, mainly from Syria and Iraq, lived in tents next to each other. Life felt difficult and unsafe in many ways. Hayad recalls that when she needed to use the bathroom, her husband had to come with her. Keeping the children clean was a constant struggle, and she was scared to even let them out of her sight. The family became agitated and argued with each other. The washing detergent in the camp made her hands bleed. Hayad endured all of this while pregnant with Damhad.

“It was a tragic life and I lived in constant fear,” she said.  “Things are much better now.”

The majority of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece continue to live in camps across the country but 17,000 have been resettled into rented apartments. Hellenic Red Cross, supported by the IFRC and partner National Societies, has been providing basic health care in many of the camps and has now set up the mobile health clinic to continue providing medical assistance to families living in the urban areas.

“It’s very important to help these families,” said mobile clinic paediatrician Ekaterini Lalouni.

“They come from a war-torn country and have had to endure an extremely difficult time. Yet, they have the strength to give birth to a baby in a foreign country.”

Nurse Gouti has witnessed the positive effects that relocation to an apartment – a home – has on people’s health.

“It is a psychological change above all,” she said. “People feel well because they live in a safe and warm place and do not have to spend most of their time outside. They can also live more independently and it’s easier for them to follow health advice our team gives out.”

The Red Cross provides humanitarian assistance to migrants throughout Greece. It offers primary health care services, psychosocial support, cash assistance, food, clothes, hygiene items and other necessities. Red Cross operations in Greece are funded by IFRC’s emergency appeal, which includes financial support from the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations section (ECHO) and other donors.