During the third quarter of 2017, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants declined slightly in Serbia, with 4,250 counted on September 30, 2017. Of these, 3,900 were accommodated in one of five asylum centers or thirteen reception centers. 300 persons of concern remain housed in temporary emergency shelters.
The beginning of the new school year brought a hopeful surprise for refugee and migrant children. A pilot program by the Serbian government allowed around 450 of some 800 refugee and migrant children ages 7–14 to start attending public primary schools across the country alongside their Serbian peers. The refugee and migrant children are integrated into Serbian children’s classrooms, where they have learned the Serbian language and can comfortably follow lessons.
In September, 589 persons registered intention to seek asylum in Serbia (as compared to 282 in August). 51% were filed by adult men, 15% by adult women and 34% were registered for children. The Asylum Office granted one person subsidiary protection, increasing the number of positive first-instance decisions during this year to three.
Serbia’s Ministry of Health is currently discussing the gap in dental services for refugees and asylum seekers and how RMF can participate in treating patients who are in dire need of these services. RMF Serbia is also discussing with the MOH how we can assist in the development of refugee and asylum seekers’ health care in general, so the care can be both practical and visionary. With these goals in mind, RMF Serbia is preparing to set up a new mobile dental clinic in the fourth quarter of 2017.
RMF Serbia is also talking with the MOH about how to beat the cultural challenges involved in treating patients with mental disorders, the tendency towards simplistic solutions that are insufficient to address highly complex and evolving disorders, and situations when patients escape from the hospital. RMF Serbia is working with the MOH to identify best practices and human resources for health requirements.
RMF Serbia continued to participate in monthly health cluster meetings conducted in Belgrade by the Ministry of Health and supported by the World Health Organization. These coordination meetings summarized the current situation, issues, problems, and challenges, while identifying response strategies and actions to carry out during the final quarter of 2017. Through our participation in these meetings, RMF Serbia also continues to raise awareness of our work and develop ties with government health programs.
RMF provided assorted drugs and medical care, as well as hygiene packs, safety kits, and children’s kits to support the response to refugees.
Serbia continues to face an increasing number of asylum seekers: since the beginning of the refugee crisis, 393,069 people were registered in Serbia. Since January 2016, RMF has been responding to the refugee crisis by providing comprehensive protection and medical services to persons of concern. Our team works in and around Belgrade providing 24/7 access to needed services. Our main goal is to provide first aid and basic primary health care for refugees in Serbia. Our team also has the skills to identify and refer extremely vulnerable individuals—women, children, victims of sexual or gender based violence, victims of human trafficking, or victims of other forms of exploitation—for appropriate assistance and follow up by relevant institutions.
A 29-year-old man had been suffering from diabetes for two years. During an illegal crossing of the Serbian-Hungarian border, Hungarian police deliberately took his insulin and left him stranded on the Serbian side of the border. He was not able to purchase more injectable insulin, since it can be only acquired in pharmacies with a valid medical report signed by a state doctor. The young man was doing his best to maintain a proper diet, hoping to reach somebody who could help him. When he came to RMF, his glucose level was 15.2 mmol/L. He was taken to the health center in order to perform further laboratory tests and urine analyses. An appointment was made with the endocrinologist, and he received proper insulin therapy, preventing infinite complications that can be caused by untreated diabetes.
An 18-year-old man from Afghanistan came to the RMF clinic with abdominal pain, maculopapular rash/purpura, and generalized joint pain. The patient also reported loss of appetite and vomiting blood. Based on the clinical presentation, RMF doctors diagnosed Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP) and referred the patient to the ER. After we spent the night in the ER with the patient, he was finally admitted to the intensive care unit with the diagnosis of HSP, and treatment with corticosteroids was started. We are very glad to report that the patient recovered well.
Adolescents are observed to have a higher incidence of self-harm injuries than other populations, and a significant association has been made between deliberate self-harm, low self-esteem, mental issues, and drug and alcohol abuse. These issues are exacerbated by the displacement of refugee and migrant youths.
An 18-year-old patient came to RMF’s clinic with fifteen self-inflicted wounds on his lower left arm. He admitted that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he burned himself with a cigarette three days before. Since the event occurred, he had not seen a doctor. The wounds were red, painful, and swollen, and the patient had a fever. We treated his wounds and infection, but the young man refused any psychosocial help.