Calais migrant camp conditions are desperate, says nurse volunteer

Charity volunteers are dealing with difficult conditions in Calais where migrants are seeking healthcare help from aid workers

A nurse volunteer working in a migrant camp in Calais says that conditions are desperate as streams of patients present with broken bones and lacerated hands caused by falls from trains and lorries or from climbing barbed wire fences.

Philip Andrews, an A&E specialist nurse from London, says that some families have been are begging aid workers for food and blankets, but most have to be turned away.

There is a shortage of toilets and only two sources of running water for about 3,000 people, he said.  A recent outbreak of scabies is compounding the problems in the makeshift camp, where at least three women are pregnant, said Mr Andrews.

He is working for the Doctors of the World/Médecins du Monde charity, which supplies doctors and nurses to troubled regions. The charity currently has a team of three doctors and two nurses at the camp. The team has a wooden hut and tents, and plus basic medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors and a supply of medication including antibiotics, paracetamol, and skin creams. The team does not carry out suturing, however. The medical facilities are available from 10am to 6pm, and then Mr Andrews and the team go off site and stay in a house a few miles away.

About 20 migrants seek help from the charity each day, said Mr Andrews who estimated that about seven of these patients have to be sent to a nearby hospital because their injuries are so severe.

Mr Andrews said: ‘People are trying to get to the UK by jumping on trains or trying to go over fences made of barbed wire. About half of the injuries are for people with shredded hands who have been climbing the fences. There are broken ankles and other leg breaks.

'Some people don’t have shoes so we treat them for foot injuries. Some of them have shoes and socks but haven’t changed them for a long time.’

He added: ‘There’s a huge range of languages and cultures and for many of them it’s been a traumatic journey to get there. There are way too few toilets and we only have two water points. Living conditions are really difficult.

'Sometimes people come to us looking for food and we have to turn them away. People want blankets from us, and we do have some but nowhere near enough for everyone.

'We have come across three or four women who are pregnant. A baby could quite easily be born on the camp without us even knowing about it.’

The migrant camp is about 30 minutes’ walk from the Calais ferry port and about 90 minutes' from the Channel tunnel, said Mr Andrews.

‘Part of the reason that there are so many people here is that is has been made more difficult to cross. There are more regular checks and more fences than there used to be. The authorities have shut down other small camps in other parts of the city, and put everyone in one place. In some of tents there are 20 or 30 people.’ Many of the migrants are from Sudan and Eritrea, but others are from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Mr Andrews, a Dutch national who lives in London, is in between jobs having previously worked at the Royal London Hospital. He plans to remain in Calais for two weeks then go to Sierra Leon to help people in regions affected by Ebola.

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