By Madeline Kane
“For refugees, internet is a lifeline,” says Dr. Gundula Epp.
Inside the German Red Cross tent at the Cherso refugee camp in northern Greece, Dr. Epp treats about 40 patients a day. The effects of trauma and stress can take a toll on refugees’ health, she says. “We see many women with three, four children, whose husbands have already gone to Germany. They are stuck here. They must queue all day for food, shoes, shampoo. They live with a great deal of stress.”
Still, many of the refugees have mobile phones, Epps says, which makes this humanitarian crisis unique among the many she has witnessed during 22 years as a field doctor in Africa and Asia. And thanks to a working internet connection, the refugees are able to communicate with family and friends, which eases some of the difficulty of life in the camps.
Cherso, Greece is just one of 22 sites where NetHope has responded to the refugee crisis by providing free Wi-Fi for refugees and the NGOs aiding them. The Red Cross, for instance, uses the connection to track key metrics and reorder supplies.
“After I see a patient I take two minutes to fill out a medical statistics form,” explains Epp. This helps her to chart the unique needs of the Syrian refugees she treats. Common ailments can include diabetes and other chronic diseases, traumatic injuries from bombings and mental health concerns arising from trauma.
Red Cross responders like Dr. Epp rely on the web to order essential medicines for their patients. By providing internet access, NetHope helps them aid those who need it most.
This post is part of an ongoing series of stories from NetHope's work in Greece to provide connectivity to refugees.