German Red Cross to distribute aid to migrants in Greece

AP News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2015 6:25 AM

BERLIN (AP) — The German Red Cross said Tuesday it will distribute hygiene kits to migrants to try to prevent disease from spreading as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The aid organization said that starting in mid-September it will hand out more than 19,000 kits — each will include a two-month supply of toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, baby-care products and diapers.

The head of the German Red Cross, Rudolf Seiters, called the situation on Lesbos desolate and said many of the migrants who come to Lesbos on boats crossing the Mediterranean are weakened, have to sleep on the floor and have no access to medical care.

"To prevent the spreading of diseases in this situation, it is extremely important to improve the hygienic conditions," Seiters said.

The aid group said that the German Foreign Office would contribute to the cost of the project.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency called on Greek authorities to show greater leadership and appoint someone to coordinate the aid operation on some of its smaller islands.

"It's very difficult for us to start working on the ground if we don't have somebody who is in charge," spokesman William Spindler from the UNHCR told reporters in Geneva.

He said police were tired and overwhelmed, but migrants too were frustrated from having to wait for days for documents, and often not receiving basic assistance.

"The conditions in Athens are equally poor as on the islands," Spindler said, adding that the vast majority of people arriving in Greece will leave the country for other European destinations after a few days.