Our teams have been present in Athens since September 2015. Following our work based at the port of Pireaus and other camps, we have now opened a Mother-Baby Area in the hub of downtown Athens. More than 4,000 refugees currently live in urban settings and more are expected before winter sets in. With public transportation allowing access to downtown for those in the surrounding Athens camps, this move will enable us to reach the greatest number of people.
Our projects, outlined below, will continue to adapt to respond to the needs of women and children as this crisis develops.
“Reproductive health care in emergencies is not a luxury but a necessity that saves lives and reduces illness” 1
One in five refugee women of childbearing age (15-45) is likely to be pregnant. 2 Pregnant women and newborns are disproportionately harmed by disasters, with more miscarriages, premature births, low birth weight infants, undesired pregnancies and birth complications than an average population.
Lack of adequately nutritious food, a scarcity of drinking water, fragmented or no health care, unfamiliar surroundings, and the often unending psychological stress put pregnant women and infants at great risk.
In June 2016, we distributed 1,000 supplemental food bags to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers 3
Breastfeeding is a crucially important means of enabling health and stability in an infant during a crisis. However, due to the indiscriminate distribution of breastmilk substitutes combined with many widely disseminated misconceptions about breastmilk, many mothers believe that formula feeding is best. These mothers unwittingly put their children at high risk and often need support to maintain breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization states that infants should be exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life with breastfeeding and complementary foods both given until two years of age or beyond. During a crisis, this is even more lifesaving than at other times.
“Breastfeeding practices need to be protected during emergencies; infants who are not breastfed are at a manifold higher risk of morbidity and mortality than breastfed children.” 4
Mother-baby areas provide safety, reassurance and resources for mothers to feel supported and access information, particularly in relation to infant feeding. These spaces evolve from the needs and skills of the mothers themselves.
We also provide areas where mothers can bathe their babies.