Cold, fever and babies born on migrants' long journey to Europe

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 10, 2015 10:14 AM

By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - At a makeshift medical center at Budapest's eastern railway terminus migrant women keep coming with small children and babies, many of whom have a bad cough, fever, diarrhea or insect bites after being on the road for weeks.

The long journey from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq to Europe, which migrants do partly on foot, is exhausting enough for men fleeing wars, persecution and poverty. But it is especially arduous for families and women with small children.

Amina, 28, from Aleppo in Syria, and her husband have been traveling with a one-year-old boy and are now camping in a makeshift tent in the underpass, waiting to board a train to Germany. There are a few water taps for the hundreds of migrants and civilian aid groups hand out food, drinks and clothes.

Amina says in broken English that their house had been bombed in Syria, and proudly shows the curly-haired boy dressed in a striped sweatshirt, saying he is strong as his father.

The boy had fever on the journey but recovered. When asked what had been the hardest part for her so far, she says with a faint smile: "Difficult to walk (with) baby ... No washing."

In front of a nearby temporary medical center, set up by civilians and manned all day by volunteer doctors and nurses, women and men wait patiently, most of them with children.

Kathleen Leak, a nurse from the English town of Doncaster, has been working here for eight days now. She visited her daughter who is studying in Budapest, and decided to stay to help.

"We have had a couple of young kids that had asthma attacks, they have given them steroids ... (and) we get them on the train as quickly as possible," she said, adding that the most frequent problems for children are diarrhea, sickness and fevers.

"We have had a few babies that have come through and their bottoms and everything have been really bad," she said, adding that aid workers may set up a tent to bathe babies.

For migrant women, one of the main problems is maintaining personal hygiene on the long journey.

But there are also babies born, and sadly, there are also miscarriages.

Just at the Budapest eastern railway station, several women went into labor, were taken to hospital and had healthy babies born, aid workers told Reuters.

"We had one young girl who came in, (and) was really upset, it turned out ... she was pregnant. She did not know, that was lovely," Leak said.


Rania and her husband Ali have come from Iraq via Turkey with three children, aged around two to five. In broken English they explain that they had walked for ten hours from Serbia into Hungary, and it was especially bad as it rained.

But Rania, wearing a red head scarf, was optimistic as they planned to get on the train to Vienna on Thursday. Their end goal is Finland. They are lucky as the children look healthy.

Temperatures have dropped to around 6-9 degrees Celsius (into the 40s Fahrenheit) at night in Hungary in the past week. This has made things worse for the thousands of migrants who cross the Serbian border each day.

Maria Veres, a retired pediatrician, has worked tirelessly for almost four weeks now at the railway station, helping migrant children. The center is small, with three mattresses on the floor and she has to kneel down to examine the babies.

But there is plenty of medicine, donated by Hungarians and foreigners.

"Now that the chilly weather has set in, we have many cases of children who caught a cold and have fever," the doctor said.

And then she recalls a happy memory.

"I have seen a baby who was five to six days old, who was born with Caesarean in Greece, a very beautiful and healthy baby," she said.

"I checked the baby and then it turned out that her mother had a problem with her stitchings, which is understandable after so much walking."

"The baby was gorgeous, nothing wrong with the baby."

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Peter Graff)