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Help People in GreeceHow to help people in Greece? While Greece is one of the world’s most beautiful travel destinations, it is currently experiencing a great deal of poverty. The good news is that tourists in Greece have the opportunity to do much more than sightseeing, as there are many ways they can help the poor.

Some people hand out water bottles, miniature games for kids and snacks to those who are in need. Many of Greece’s refugees are so happy to arrive and are shocked at the amount of help that is awaiting them.

Another major way that tourists can help is by packing donation items in their luggage. Travel companies provide passengers who are unable to donate time with the opportunity to bring extra luggage containing donations without being charged. TripAdvisor has the option to donate via its website as well.

Greece has received two separate bailouts since the year 2010, causing budget cuts and an increase in taxes. This is another reason why donating to organizations and non-profits that assist refugees will help people in Greece and provide relief until the economy is able to regain its footing.

There are many nonprofit organizations that can help people in Greece, such as DESMOS, PRAKSIS, UNHCR Greece and SOS Children’s Villages, just to name a few. DESMOS, for example, allows people to donate used items that are still in good condition, such as computers, clothing, furniture and other items.

More good news is that the IRC has provided 17,690 people with aid packages, 1,400 abuse survivor refugees with one-on-one emotional support and eight safe spaces. One of the biggest needs for those suffering in Greece is mental health assistance. This is why safe spaces and counseling are important and necessary forms of assistance for refugees in Greece.

The International Rescue Committee, also known as the IRC, supports three major refugee camps in Greece by supplying necessities and access to showers, toilets and other aids in hygiene. Altogether, the number of people assisted in Greece by the IRC is around 31,000. With such a large number of citizens getting relief through the IRC and other organizations, there is rising hope for the poor and the refugees. As a tourist or simply a citizen, simple actions can be taken to help people in Greece.

Noel McDavid

Photo: Google

Common Diseases in GreeceGreece is a small nation in the south of Europe, full of history and culture. A large portion of the tradition in Greece resides in the food they make for their family and friends and spending time together. While these activities are common to the Mediterranean country, many of these people’s habits are also what cause their most common illnesses. Here are the top five common diseases in Greece:

1. Cardiovascular Disease

The number one cause of death in Greece in 2014, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) affect millions of people annually, worldwide. CVDs are common killers in low- and middle-income countries, such as Greece. These diseases come in many forms. Some examples include eart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems. The causes of CVDs vary, but they often connect to lifestyle choices such as an unhealthy diet, lack of physical exercise, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.

2. Cancer

While cancer comes in many forms and affects Grecians differently, the most prevalent among them is lung cancer. Lung cancer has become the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women around the world, often being found once it is in a very developed stage. In recent years, doctors have begun to develop early screenings for people who they believe are at a high risk of developing the cancer. Lung cancer is one of the more preventable cancers, often caused by large amounts of exposure to smoke.

3. Alzheimer’s and other Dementias

In 2013, 1.77 percent of the Greek population suffered from dementia. Additionally, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a disease that affects memory loss and other cognitive abilities, which make everyday living difficult. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but it can reveal itself as people start to reach 65 years of age or older. While there is currently no cure for the disease, there are medicines and treatments that help with symptoms.

4. Chronic Respiratory Diseases

Another one of the common diseases in Greece, chronic respiratory diseases affect thousands of people every year. The disease can come in many forms, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and occupational lung diseases. These diseases are often due to behavioral or environmental forces such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, occupational chemicals and dust.

5. Diabetes

Approximately 7.5 percent of Greece’s population suffers from diabetes. The disease can come in two forms, type one and type two. Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed in childhood, whereas type 2 is diagnosed later on in adulthood. Type two diabetes is the most common form of diabetes found in those afflicted and is often the result of behavioral choices, such as eating habits.

These common diseases in Greece are just some of the many illnesses that the population deals with. While many of these afflictions often lead to fatality, they are often preventable by living a healthy and active lifestyle.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Greece's Poverty Rate
Once a holiday destination for millions looking to escape their usual fast-paced lifestyles, Greece has become ridden with protesters rather than sun-kissed tourists in recent years. With a poverty rate that has doubled since 2008, Greece has endured difficult times as a result of its recession. As of 2015, Greece’s poverty rate was sitting at 23.2 percent.

To put this statistic in perspective, the poorest country in the European Union (E.U.) currently has a poverty rate of 20 percent. The case of Greece is particularly intriguing as their poverty rate is only three percent higher than a country much poorer. This begs the question, what happened to Greece?

October 2009 sounded the alarm of a future of debt and recession for Greece, as it was discovered the government had been understating their deficit figures for years. Greece became the leper of the financial world as it was cut off from borrowing money and spiraled into bankruptcy around 2010.

A bailout of 240 billion euros from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the European Commission should have marked a turning point in the Greek economy, but rather than using the bailout to strengthen the economy, it was simply used to pay off existing debts. This led unemployment to skyrocket to 25 percent, created an economy that has fallen a quarter in five years and heavily contributed to Greece’s poverty rate.

The years of 2008 to 2013 saw Greeks become 40 percent poorer. This decline has led to the rise in poverty and is a direct result of the high unemployment rate, particularly for Greece’s youth. Half of citizens under 25 are unemployed. This age group suffers disproportionately more than others, which spells trouble for the economy and well-being of such a fragile country. Those under 25 are the future, and Greece’s poverty rate will continue to rise if they are unemployed and disadvantaged.

Two bailouts, a recession and a record-breaking poverty rate later, Greece has not been able pull itself from the worst financial crisis in its history. Nearly a decade later, Greece is still living in the nightmare that is bankruptcy and debt. There is hope for the future, but currently Greece is looking for solutions.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr

Facts and Figures About GreeceGreece is a country in southeastern Europe about the size of Alabama. Among other things, the nation is known fo­­­­­r its beautiful beaches and remarkable history. However, these wonderful features can easily be overlooked in recent years as the nation has faced and continues to face severe economic challenges.

According to Trading Economics, as of April 2017, the nation’s unemployment rate sits at 21.7 percent. That means more than two million Greeks are out of work. This unemployment rate is a few points lower than that of the U.S. at the height of the Great Depression.

The harsh economic conditions that Greece is facing are nothing new. While there is no official start date, December 2009 was an early sign of what was to come. With concerns rising that the Greek government would fail to pay its large debt, the nation’s credit rating was downgraded by an influential rating agency.

In the summer of 2011, the leaders of the European Union decided to bail out Greece, but this did not solve the nation’s crippling economic problems. A few key facts and figures about Greece demonstrate that in the months and years following the €109 billion bailout, conditions continued their downward trajectory.

In April of 2013, youth unemployment was just under 60 percent. In February of 2014, overall unemployment had increased to 28 percent. These harsh economic realities have plagued the nation’s people. Material deprivation affects more than 22 percent of the population, according to Eurostat. In other words, more than one in five people in Greece simply cannot afford basic necessities.

As a result, organizations such as food banks are struggling to keep up with overwhelming demand. “We’re worried because we don’t know if we’ll be able to meet these people’s needs,” said Eleni Katsouli, a municipal offer at a food bank in Athens, to Reuters.

As the facts and figures about Greece indicate, the nation’s people are in need of help. Fortunately, people and organizations have stepped up. One organization making a particularly strong impact is Desmos.

According to its website, Desmos exists to respond to “the need to responsibly and effectively utilize the private initiative in addressing the humanitarian crisis” afflicting Greece. One program that the organization runs that demonstrates its impact is “Desmos for Schools.” This is the fourth year of the initiative. In 2017 alone it donated important items such as computers and sports equipment to 14 schools in Greece. More than 1,300 students will benefit from these efforts.

Charitable organizations such as Desmos are not the only reason for optimism in Greece. A sign of economic improvement showed in 2016 when the budget surplus exceeded expectations. This positive trajectory is predicted to continue as the nation’s GDP is projected to grow by more than 1 percent this year and more than 2 percent next year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Positive facts and figures about Greece such as these are encouraging signs. If these projections hold true, Greece’s darkest days are likely behind it. However, a very large portion of the population is struggling with poverty right now and is in need of help.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Pixabay


Cyprus is one of the largest islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, situated 283 miles off the Turkish Coast. It has a vibrant history, troves of archaeological treasures, wild landscapes and abundant mineral wealth. Since 1974, the country has been partitioned between Turkish and Greek-Cypriots. As a result of this artificial division, evaluating government services like education in Cyprus is problematic.

Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) while the EU recognizes the Republic of Cyprus. A U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) patrols the demilitarized zone between the populations to provide security in a buffer known as the Green Line. On May 19, Cyprus reunification peace talks stalled over Turkish-Cypriot demands for oil and gas exploration rights and Greek-Cypriot requests for territory concessions.

Because of the reunification problem, education in Cyprus is difficult to quantify, but here are five facts.

  1. Primary education is compulsory for six years. Students then attend secondary school for six years, comprised of lower and upper levels lasting three years each.
  2. According to the 2015 PISA, the international student assessment of math, science and reading skills among 15-year-olds, Cyprus falls below average in all three areas. The nation’s results in the newest category — collaborative problem solving — has not been released.
  3. Technical and vocational education in Cyprus lasts for two years after secondary school. These pathways are not well-supported compared to university programs.
  4. Cyprus is known for the percentage of students graduating from colleges and universities. The government recently created an Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation. At present, there are three public and five private universities.
  5. PISA, as administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), measures student well-being as well as academic skills. The results of the 2015 PISA indicate that Cypriot secondary school student life satisfaction is lower than average.

Gathering statistics on education in Cyprus is difficult given the reunification problem. This rift has made it difficult to remove the deadlock which impedes socio-economic growth. Moreover, the efficiency of public spending has remained an issue for the nation’s development — particularly in education. At present, there is no single statistical office which represents all of the Cypriot people.

Hopefully, organization and unification will soon be established and improve the quality and seriousness of education in Cypress.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

President Obama's Visit to Greece: Talking Economy and Refugees
As the year comes to a close, President Obama embarks on one last official trip to Europe. One of the stops is Athens, Greece. In his two-day trip, he addresses the future of the country.

President Obama’s visit to Greece sparked a lot of debate about the country’s economic recovery and well as social issues. In the president’s opinion, Greece needs continued debt relief in order to fully stabilize the economy and ensure a prosperous future.

Greece has endured an economic crisis for the past eight years. The crisis began after years of understating the national debt caused the financial markets to deny loan money to the country. By 2010, Greece was moving towards bankruptcy. In order to salvage the economy, Greece received bailouts. As of today, it has been given 274 billion in bailout loans since May 2010. There have also been numerous economic reforms that have caused unrest among the Greek population.

President Obama spoke on the discontent of the Greek people. He argues that other than debt relief, “people need to see hope.” Drawing on the example of Brexit earlier this summer and the recent American election he says, “If people feel that they’re losing control of their future, they will push back.” The “push back” in Greece has been readily present since the beginning of the economic crisis.

The two bailouts given to Greece have come with austerity measures which have been met with anger. The first program included salary cuts of public-sector workers and increase sales tax. The second program increased taxes on certain goods and included pension reforms. As a response, citizens continue to have demonstrations and often clash with law enforcement which has ended in violence.

In anticipation of President Obama’s visit to Greece, a peaceful protest in Athens turned violent when supposed anarchist threw rocks and Molotov cocktails in support of anti-capitalism. “No Hope” was written on buildings.

Nonetheless, President Obama will actively continue to encourage creditors to provide debt relief so Greece can achieve a sustainable economy once again. He also praised Greece for opening up its border to refugees even in the midst of an economic crisis. President Obama said “The Greek people’s generosity towards refugees arriving on your shores has inspired the world. That doesn’t mean that you should be left on your own, and only a truly collective response by Europe and the world can ensure that these desperate people receive the support that they need.”

President Obama’s visit to Greece encouraged continued debt relief to rehabilitate the economy and bring hope to the Greek people.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Greece
As thousands of refugees in Greece continue to remain trapped in the country after an agreement closing the borders, American veterans are volunteering again to provide medical care. The agreement between the Turkey and the E.U. went into effect March 20th, leaving refugees already in the country unable to travel back to Turkey or continue on to Europe.

According to the U.N., there are 42,000 refugees located on the mainland of Greece, with another 8,000 spread across the Greek islands. Grouped in crowded camps by Greek officials, the asylum-seekers face overflowing toilets, lack of health care, poor food, violence and open harassment of women.

Many are housed in makeshift shelters in abandoned buildings. Though the country’s borders are officially closed to refugees, many still attempt to flee to Europe, with 3,000 having died or gone missing in attempted water-crossings from Turkey 2016 alone.

Team Rubicon

In response, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) mobilized to help refugees stranded in Greece. One of them is Team Rubicon: a crisis-response organization founded by two marines in 2010 to provide aid to earthquake-stricken Haitians. Since its inception, the group evolved into an organization capable of deploying response teams around the world.

Now boasting leaders such as retired General Stanley McChrystal on its Board of Directors and retired General David Petraeus on its Board of Advisors, the veterans’ organization is active in all fifty states and around the world.

Operating in small teams of current service members, veterans and civilian emergency workers, Team Rubicon deploys to disaster areas that may be difficult for larger organizations to reach.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview Matt Pelak, the International Operations Chief for Team Rubicon who noted that since July, Team Rubicon has provided “primary and emergency medical care to a camp of about 200 at-risk refugees including pregnant women and unaccompanied children.”

The camp, established by the Radcliffe Foundation at a disused textile factory along Greece’s northern border, provides a reprieve from the crowded and dangerous conditions at many refugee sites.

Pelak asserted that Team Rubicon decided to deploy to Greece after assessing and concluding that the economic and emergency response capacity in the country was overwhelmed. The deluge of refugees are fleeing violence in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Team Rubicon medical specialists have made efforts to send smaller mobile teams to surrounding camps as well, providing free medical care to the refugees they are able to see.

Though they are coordinating their efforts with a slew of other NGOs and the U.N., Pelak recognized that there are simply too many refugees in Greece for the current medical resources allocated. “The medical care [we provide] can be the first in months or years for many refugees,” he said.

The Struggles of Resettlement

Efforts to resettle the asylum seekers are underway, but so far only about 1,700 have been allowed to officially relocate to E.U. countries willing to take them in. Those that arrived after March 20th are supposed to be sent back to Turkey, but the Greek government has only deported 500 so far.

The refugees in Greece who arrived before the deadline will have to wait until the government can make a ruling on their applications for asylum. Considering the number of refugees and the variety of languages spoken among them, the process may take some time. Talking about the masses stranded in Greece, Pelak urged people around the world to “Support NGOs that provide aid on the ground and strongly consider taking in refugees by pressuring lawmakers.”

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

Iraq refugeesFormer bustling cities like Ramadi, Iraq are now left in shambles and deserted due to the atrocities of war. Recently, the city of Fallujah has been liberated from ISIS control. However, 85,000 residents have been uprooted. Even within their country’s borders, many Iraqi refugees are under refugee status because of the enormous problem of internal displacement. Here are 10 facts about Iraq refugees:

  1. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported Syria as the country with highest Iraqi migration with 253,607 Iraqi immigrants. Closely followed by Germany with 115,041 migrants from Iraq.
  2. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received 21 percent of the funding requested for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and Iraqi Refugees. The overall appeal requested by the UNHCR is $584 million, yet they’ve only received $127.7 million despite the recent release of Fallujah.
  3. Within three months about 20,000 people from Mosul and surrounding districts have been displaced largely because Mosul and the surrounding areas have been ISIS strongholds since June 2014.
  4. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances and mutilation of corpses by Iraqi government forces and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) over the two weeks of fighting since May 23. On June 4, 2016, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi launched an investigation and announced “unspecified arrests” of the culprits and proceeded to transfer them to the judiciary system for further punishment. No information is available on the investigation since the announcement was made.
  5. Since January 2014, 3.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been reported in Iraq, 85,000 IDPs from Fallujah and surrounding areas since May 2016, and 24,000 IDPs from Mosul and surrounding areas since March 2016.
  6. More than 600,000 displaced children have missed an entire school year. UNICEF intends to spend 11.9 percent or $12 million of the 2016 Requirements for Iraq on child protection.
  7. One of the most disheartening facts about Iraq refugees is that one in five children – 3.6 million – in Iraq are now at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and forced recruitment into armed groups, according to the latest report from UNICEF. This number has increased by 1.3 million in just 18 months.
  8. Minority groups in Iraq have been exposed to some of the worst treatment during the war. Rudaw reports “Christian, Yezidi, Kaka’i, Turkmen, and Shabak minority groups in Iraq have been subjected to [genocide],” rape and torture amongst a plethora of other cruel treatments. Most have suffered the struggles of displacement and looting, according to the report conducted by Minority Rights Group. All minority groups have fallen greatly in numbers of population in Iraq because of the extreme violence against them as a community.
  9. More than 86,000 Iraqis arrived on the shores of Greece in 2015 alone. Even though they’ve escaped the clutches of the Islamic State, living conditions in Greece have been difficult plagued with famine, illness, and harsh weather conditions.
  10. The UNHCR estimates that more that 85,000 people have evacuated Fallujah since military operations began in May. Many citizens that have fled Fallujah recently are camped out in the dessert that is reaching temperatures of 115 F. With access to drinking water scarce and low immunization rates the risk of disease is becoming more prevalent.

Though the 10 facts about Iraq refugees are disheartening, triumphant work has been accomplished thus far. UNICEF has reported two million people newly displaced by conflict received Rapid Response Mechanism kits within 72 hours of the trigger for response and 131,200 children received structured, sustained resilience or psychosocial support programs.

In recent news, Mosul is the next city to be perused by the Iraqi government to release the residents of Mosul from ISIS rule. If the mission is successfully completed, it would be a severe moral and strategic loss for ISIS and a triumph for Iraq refugees wanting to return home.

Mariana Camacho López

Photo: Pixabay

Refugee_GreeceMany know the island of Lesbos as a small, quiet vacation island. It embodies the quaint characteristics of Greece, with its freshly caught fish and rural roads through mountain ranges. But what many people do not know is that Lesbos also accepted nearly 60 percent of the migrants that entered Greece last year because of its location at the northern tip of the country.

The small town of around 100 residents became a familiar name for media centers around the world covering the refugee crisis, as most Middle Easterners seeking asylum, shelter and safety arrive in the town on a daily basis.

Already doomed by the government’s economic crisis, the island has been overwhelmed with balancing compassion and aid for refugees while having their tourist-dependent economy wane because of the arrival of the refugees. Along with the refugees, international organizations like the United Nations and other NGOs also began to arrive in an attempt to stabilize the region and help the refugees. One of the most notable of these organizations is Lighthouse Relief.

LightHouse Relief, a Swedish nonprofit organization, works to provide relief to refugees who arrive in the Katsikas and Ritsona camps in mainland Greece, in addition to providing ecological support of Lesvos. Skilled volunteers from around the world give their time to work with the organization on the ground to help people.

The organization was started in September 2015 by a group of volunteers working on the northeastern coast of Lesvos in Skala Sikamineas. There were no other organizations present at that time to help the Greeks who were attempting to aid the incoming refugees, so LightHouse Relief volunteers rented nearby land and prepared to have a long-term presence.

The organization’s main goal is to provide relief to children, women, and the elderly through their various programs and initial help of migrants when they arrive on shore. Since October 2015, LightHouse Relief has been able to provide a reception camp with electrically-heated tents and playgrounds for children.

One of their biggest projects is Lighthouse ECO Relief,which stands for Environmental Clean-Up Operation. So far, 600,000 lifejackets and 10,000 rubber dinghies have been discarded on the shores all around Lesvos, hurting the ecosystem of the area and making it a more dangerous destination for subsequent migrants. This project removes trash, lifejackets and broken boats.

All volunteers have to at least be 21 and committed to staying for a minimum of three weeks. Holidays are no exception, as multiple volunteers were standing on the shore waiting for migrants to arrive on Christmas morning, prepared to give warm clothes and a Christmas Dinner on the beach to help the refugees feel as though they were home as well.

Volunteers must also have some sort of a background in the resources that the organization tries to provide. From nutrition to being a midwife, to language skills, all of their volunteers are prepared to have lasting effects on all of the people they encounter.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr

Greek Islands Becoming Overwhelmed by Refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated in a recent warning that nearly 1,000 refugees are arriving on Greek islands each day after crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The organization has raised concerns that the growing number of migrants due to persistent conflicts in Africa and the Middle East are placing an unprecedented strain on Greece and other European nations.

William Spindler, spokesperson for the Office of the UNHCR, stated in a press briefing last week that “Greece’s volatile economic situation, combined with the increasing numbers of new arrivals, is putting severe strain on small island communities, which lack the basic infrastructure and services to adequately respond to the growing humanitarian needs.”

Officials estimate that at least 75,000 people have arrived on the shores of Greece since the beginning of 2015, with nearly 60 percent of these migrants arriving from Syria. Many other migrants have traveled from other regions afflicted with conflict including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria and Somalia.

Thanassis Andreotis, president of a small coastal village in Lesvos, states in an interview about the surge in refugees, “Our Island can’t handle that many people coming over. There’s no way to take care of them.” Andreotis noted that due to a lack of governmental assistance, many members of his community have resorted to personally financing the construction of shelters for the migrants.

The UNHCR has stated that level of migrants arriving daily has reached such heights that border authorities and local communities are not capable of handling the “staggering” number of refugees. The majority of the migrants who have arrived in Greece plan to continue traveling north to other Western and Northern European countries via the Balkans region.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia has reported an unprecedented surge in refugees, with at least 45,000 people seeking asylum within the region during the first half of 2015.

Spindler also emphasized while in Geneva that, “an urgent response from Europe is needed before the situation deteriorates further. Tightening borders is not the solution, including the plans of the Hungarian government to build a fence along the Serbian border.”

A human trafficking vessel that departed Turkey filled with refugees from the Middle East reportedly capsized last week in the Mediterranean Sea, killing at least 19 of the some 40 passengers on board. While this was the first major maritime disaster in this region in nearly a month, largely due to increased search-and-rescue-operations conducted by European nations, officials are concerned that the rising number of migrants will result in more deaths on the high seas.

Laura Padoan, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, stated in response to the disaster and the increase of refugee journeys across the Mediterranean, “It’s just a short distance between Greece and Turkey but it is still very dangerous. What we need are safe legal routes to Europe, so that people don’t die in the process of getting here. Greece is facing a financial crisis and there is now a growing humanitarian crisis – and it can’t be left to Greece to deal with on its own. There needs to be a Europe-wide response.”

James Thornton

Sources: UN 1, UN 2, The Guardian
Photo: UN