We are facing the largest displacement crisis the world has seen since World War II. Approximately 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes out of fear of violence, conflict, persecution and devastatingly untenable conditions.
In the first six months of 2016, 166,347 refugees arrived on the shores of Greece; 48% from Syria, 25% from Afghanistan and 15% from Iraq. To reach Greece, each of these people endured the stress of a perilous journey, endangering their lives negotiating with smugglers and placing all their faith in incredibly risky voyages across the sea, all in the hope of a chance of survival.
Those who have overcome the odds to arrive in Greece are the lucky ones. But the experiences they have endured can have deep, long-lasting effects on self-esteem, self-worth and confidence as well as undermining their sense of hope and control over their own lives. Mental disorders, particularly anxiety and depression, are projected to double in populations living in contexts of humanitarian emergency and, disturbingly, one-fifth of refugee children are also estimated to be suffering from post-traumatic stress. If this isn’t enough, the trauma experienced by these refugees is multiplied by the deep uncertainty and instability surrounding their future and their status in a semi-permanent refugee camp. Border closures and movement restrictions implemented in 2016 have forbidden affected populations from moving on. The bitter cold of the winter months is rapidly descending on to overburdened refugee camps, further highlighting the absence of basic needs within the camps, including adequate heating, warm clothes, food, privacy and sanitation.
The One to One Children’s Fund Programmes Team (Charlotte, Head of Programmes, and Emily, Programme Manager) have recently returned from their visit to five refugee camps – Kalochori, Frakapore, Oreokastro, Sindos and Nea Kavala – located around Thessaloniki, Greece. In every single camp, the intense anxiety caused by instability and unknown futures, and further fuelled by endless, long days with nothing to do but wait, was palpable. The negative psychosocial impact of these conditions in themselves is evident and there is an urgent need for activities to occupy the mind and break the oppressive monotony of daily life within the camps. The provision of uplifting activities will offer refugees the space to reconnect with themselves and allow them to identify as more than just a ‘refugee’ once again.
We at One to One Children’s Fund have a solid background of working on trauma and resilience-building initiatives in Israeli and Palestinian communities affected by war, as well as responding to crises, for example the Kosovar refugee crisis in 1999. Using our previous experiences and lessons learnt, we are now developing our latest programme responding to the crisis that implores us today. The Programmes Team have been working with refugees and actors in the field to develop a response that responds to the critical needs of refugees.
We can’t wait to share our plans with you.