MSF emergency response to medical needs of homeless people in Greece caused by extreme weather conditions

Freezing temperatures and bad weather that struck Greece in early February led the Municipality of Athens to the decision to open temporary emergency shelters for the accommodation of homeless people.

Responding to this emergency and in collaboration with the Hospitality and Solidarity Centre of Athens Municipality, MSF launched an emergency intervention on February 1 that ended on February 19.

The MSF teams (MD, nurse, social worker, logisticians) visited all the above-mentioned centres in order to:

  • provide medical screening and treatment
  • support their referral to the national health system
  • provide non food items and hygienic items when gaps identified

The teams, that were present in the emergency shelters during late afternoon hours, provided medical assistance to more than 245 people. The majority of the homeless people were male, aged 30-50, more than half were non-Greeks, with the vast majority among them being from North Africa. The MSF teams responded to medical conditions such as upper respiratory tract infection, muscular-skeletal problems, gastrointestinal disorders and skin diseases related to bad weather and long time bad living conditions.

Also chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart problems were addressed and referred for follow up to the health facilities.  

The teams also identified lack of hot water and hygienic items, as well as insufficient number of blankets and clothes.

Despite the mobilisation of Greek society, the authorities' response was still lacking a coordination mechanism.

Main concerns now remain linked to the overall situation of homeless people in terms of access to health care and social services, as most of them have no health insurance, and, in terms of shelter, these emergency centres will soon close down.