Since 2015 LLLGB has been supporting LLL Greece in their work with breastfeeding refugee mothers, and so far have raised almost £3,500 (fundraiser closed April 2016). Figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show that in February 2016 alone 30,5311 refugees arrived in Lesvos, and that the proportion of women and children arriving is increasing: many arrive needing breastfeeding support2 .
LLL Leader Maria Fertaki began visiting refugees in Athens in November 2015, giving out baby carriers and speaking with mums about safe feeding in transit situations (with the help of a translator). In December, Maria coordinated an assessment of various refugee centres across Greece, including its many islands.
After visiting the Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos, Maria reported: “Loads of people…hundreds of children!!! A 10 day old among them with a mum ready to collapse…. We fitted mums or dads with all the baby carriers that we had and many more were needed!! We gave out leaflets.”
Since then, LLL Greece has developed its own plan to provide support and resources for breastfeeding refugee mothers. They have engaged in crucial work supporting NGOs and other agencies with breastfeeding information, training and resources. Leaders visit camps, ports and borders to distribute carriers, snacks, clothes and leaflets in various languages, and to offer safe infant feeding support. They have created mother–baby areas in Kavala and Athens. They work tirelessly to help mothers and their babies with breastfeeding.
Kalli Malamatou is a Leader who volunteers in a refugee camp in Drama, mainland Greece. She told the following story:
“About 20 days ago I met a mother of a seven-month-old baby at Drama’s refugee camp who told me that she breastfed him, about four times a day, and that she gave him formula, because the baby refused her breast most of the times and she felt that she didn’t have enough milk. I informed her about nipple confusion, about how important it is to breastfeed her baby in such circumstances, about how breastfeeding “works”, she listened to me carefully and when I left I saw her from a distance reading carefully the brochures I had given to her in Arabic. Yesterday, I met her again by chance (there are 500 refugees in that camp) and I asked her how they were doing. Her answer made me so happy: “I breastfeed 10 times a day and I haven’ t given him formula, since our last talk”.
I also had my first unofficial LLL meeting, with seven breastfeeding mothers, at a bench! We talked about breastfeeding myths (they think that their milk isn’t good because of their poor diet, that breastfeeding during pregnancy is bad for the embryo’s health). They were very happy during the conversation, we laughed a lot and hugged each other at the end. Next week we will have our first official LLL meeting with the subject “the art of breastfeeding and how to avoid any difficulties”.
Our fundraiser was closed in April 2016, if you would like to donate to LLL’s work with refugees please contact [email protected].
Written by Ellen Mateer
1 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Refugees/ Migrants Emergency Response – Mediterranean
2 Why infant feeding in emergencies matters: vulnerability of children under 5 years