Refugee babies in Greek detention center not given enough milk

A Syrian family with babies wait for transportation after disembarking ferries from the islands of Lesbos and Chios. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

According to aid workers and asylum seekers held in a detention center on the Greek island of Chios, babies younger than 6 months are not being given an adequate amount of milk. According to testimonies obtained by The Guardian, around 25 infants whose mothers are not able to breastfeed only get about 100ml of milk formula once a day, which would mean that some of these babies are only receiving a quarter of the recommended daily intake. The situation is an ugly side-effect of a migration deal between the E.U. and Turkey, that asylum-seekers who reach the Greek shores from Turkey have to remain detained there (instead of being allowed to travel further into Europe). Since the deal took hold on March 20, more than 6,000 refugees have been held on these islands, often in horrible conditions, as Greece lacks the resources to adequately support them.

While the World Health Organization recommends women in refugee centers breastfeed their babies, many of them are not able to because of the stress caused by their situation. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which has a presence at the Chios detention camp, confirmed the situation but said the issues went far beyond the problem of baby milk: “There is a lack of basic care for children,” said Dan Riley, NRC’s protection and advocacy officer on Chios. “There is a hygiene crisis. Infant children are sleeping in highly inappropriate arrangements, on the floor … It’s absolutely a baby-unfriendly environment.”

One Afghan refugee said he had to feed his 5-month old daughter with water mixed with bread to stop her from going hungry, and claimed she was in a constant state of distress because of the lack of milk. “She is crying always,” he told The Guardian. “She just wants milk, but [instead] she has stomach pain.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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