Medical care for refugees in Blagaj
By Cpl. Nicolas Marut
Blagaj - It may be thought typical protocol that SFOR initiatives, designed to help the local population, originate from the highest levels of headquarters on down. But last February, a group of military police, assigned to the Mostar-Ortijes camp in MND-SW, set out to make their own mark on the community, from the bottom up.
On a routine patrol by the Multinational Company of Military Police (A division consisting of two French, one Italian and one Spanish platoon) the Blagaj Refugee Camp had the luck of being visited by the local unit of MPs. The camp shelters 78 people, mostly Muslims who originally resided in the towns of Mostar, Prozor and Jablanica before the war. Some have been at the camp since 1992.
"The first time I visited, it was just to count the exact number of people living here," remembers Sgt. Claude Allemand, French Gendarme. "When I arrived, it was a disaster. The heating and sanitary conditions were appalling and there was no electricity. I also noticed that a lot of people were suffering from a variety of eye problems."
was later discovered that a viral conjunctivitis epidemic had indeed
broken out among the residents of the camp. But rather than just make
his report and move on, Allemand decided to go one step further and
organise a volunteer program to improve the refugees medical condition.
The process was not simple, but finally on April 18, MND-SW headquarters authorised the programme, and soon thereafter, visits by local SFOR physician were scheduled to the camp.
After visiting the camp a few times to administer treatment,
Capt. Schinelli, an Italian ophthalmologist from the Mostar camp hospital,
realised that many of the refugees were also suffering from a variety
of medical conditions which were outside his area of expertise. Since
that time, Devaud has volunteered to visit the camp every Thursday
morning to address this need. Assisting with the visits are two auxiliaries,
one interpreter and a patrol from Allemand's CMPM unit.
Now that the "house calls" have become routine, people anticipate the Thursday morning visits by SFOR personnel. They're now able to receive not only initial consultations, but follow-up treatment, if necessary.
"We just did what we thought was right and acted to find a solution to the problem," said Allemand. "It has become a very rewarding experience and an unofficial extension to the MPs mission."