Greece: Surviving war and a dangerous journey at 18, while pregnant with second child

Publié: 20 juin 2016 13:54 CET

By Caroline Haga/ Greece

18-year old Arij Zaaouit has already lived through so much that it is difficult to imagine: fled her home in Syria with her family while pregnant with her second child, endured a dangerous sea journey, survived months of dire conditions and given birth in a foreign country.

Arij Zaaouit tenderly holds her sleeping two-month-old baby girl Zenat Almasri in her arms. She has come to the Red Cross medical clinic at the Skaramagas camp on the outskirts of Athens for a checkup with her older daughter, Nabaa Almasri, who is 16 months old.

Quietly she recounts the difficult time she has had fleeing with her husband and two brothers-in-law. After paying a trafficker to take them to Greece, they made their way to the northern border only to realise that it was closed. They were forced to return to Athens where Arij gave birth.

“For the two last months of my pregnancy we were living close to gate E1 at Piraeus port. It was very difficult – we had to sleep on the stone floor with only one blanket for the whole family. When it rained, we all got soaked,” she says sadly.

“My healthy baby girl was born at a hospital here in Athens where I received very good care and was able to recuperate for three days. But then we had to return to the port for ten more days before finally being able to move to this camp.”   

Good care for the children

Arij and her family have now been living at the Skaramagas camp for two months. Along with around 3,000 other migrants – mainly Syrians – she is waiting for the opportunity to seek asylum and register for the European Union relocation programme.

Their living conditions are cramped as they share half of a small container with another family, but they have running water, a bathroom and air conditioning. Arij is especially grateful for the good care her children have received at the Red Cross medical clinic which is open every day.

“The paediatrician is very good and he speaks to the children in such a nice way,” she says.  “When my older daughter sees him she just smiles. Last week, my baby had problems with the stomach and he showed me how to massage the belly to make it better. Today, we are here because he asked us to come back to check that the ear problem my eldest had is better.”  

While conditions are a little better than before, Arij continues to dream of a safe future outside of the camp. “I hope that my children will have a good and safe future. It doesn’t matter where as long as there are no bombs and violence,” she says.

More than one-third of the 3,000 people at the Skaramagas camp are children. Hellenic Red Cross staff and volunteers, supported by Spanish Red Cross staff, provide a range of services including basic health care, paediatric and antenatal care, psychosocial support, health and hygiene promotion, children’s activities and social welfare support.

The Hellenic Red Cross, supported by the IFRC and National Societies from across Europe, has helped more than 300,000 migrants since the onset of the crisis - distributing more than 900,000 relief items; providing medical care, first aid and psychosocial support to more than 100,000 people; helping to rescue and provide first aid to 42,000 people; and helping more than 11,000 people to reconnect with their loved ones.