More than 900 refugee and migrant children in Greece received medical and psychosocial support thanks to EU-funded project run by “The Smile of the Child”

“The Smile of the Child”, humanitarian partner of the European Commission, presented on the 15th of March at the Panhellenic Center of Health Services and Social Care of the Organization in Athens the final results of the project “Direct and Holistic Medical and Psychosocial Intervention for Refugee and Migrant Children in Danger in Greece”.

With an EU contribution of EUR 800.000 the project contributed to the protection of more than 900 minors and the improvement of their quality of life. This was the Organization’s first project to be directly funded by the European Commission’s department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

The President of the Board of Directors of “The Smile of the Child” Mr. Costas Yannopoulos said: “Thanks to the funding by the European Commission, we managed to offer holistic and substantial support to children in need 24 hours a day, and we managed to bring a Smile to the face of refugee and migrant children and their families and to improve their quality of life. The project’s actions will continue being implemented by “The Smile of the Child” based on its own means until external funding resources are secured. “The Smile of the Child” will continue addressing the needs of refugee and migrant children and their families living in Greece by utilizing the nationwide network of integrated services and actions and will not interrupt the support to those in need.”

More specifically the project, which was carried out from April 2018 until the 15th of March 2019, provided:

● Support to 233 refugee/migrant infants and children with increased medical needs accommodated in apartments in Athens and Thessaloniki (e.g. provide paediatric home treatment, medical and nursing care, physiotherapy, psychosocial support and counselling, assistance in medical consultations and diagnostic examinations, training of parents on how to handle the medical issues of their children, transfers from/to hospitals).

● Prevention and response services to violence against refugee/migrant children via responding to more than 460 calls (24 hours a day/7 days a week, free of charge) and telephone counselling and direct intervention in the field to 692 minors victims of violence, smuggling, trafficking and missing unaccompanied minors in collaboration with the competent national authorities.

The project was implemented by specialized teams (pediatricians, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, cultural mediators and interpreters) in Athens and Thessaloniki, in close and continuous cooperation with the authorities, the pediatric hospitals, and the Organizations that have the overall oversight of the beneficiaries.

According to data of the project, the majority (91%) of the beneficiaries of medical intervention services were asylum seekers, 6% recognized refugees, while 3% belong to other categories. The 51% were infants/young children (0-59 months), 40% were children (5-17 years old) and 9% were pregnant women. Indicatively, the children (60% boys and 40% girls), suffered from epileptic syndromes, neuromuscular disorders, respiratory disorders, congenital infectious diseases, cerebral palsy, neurogenetic syndromes, metabolic syndromes, congenital heart diseases, developmental disorders, mobility limitations, urinary tract deformities, cystic fibrosis, neonatal complications and high risk pregnancies, hearing impairment, diabetes.

In the field of protection, the services provided concerned counselling, psychosocial support and direct intervention for refugee and migrant minors victims of trafficking or smuggling, violence, abuse or neglect, cases of missing unaccompanied minors (36% of the requests), provision of guidance, interconnection with services and provision of information (32% of the requests), interpretation via telephone (15%) and requests for shelter or other support services (17%).

The beneficiaries themselves or the professionals/Organizations/individuals can continue addressing the requests/referrals by calling the following numbers (24 hours a day/7 days a week, free of charge) or by sending an e-mail at:

● National Helpline for Children SOS 1056 ([email protected])
● European Hotline for Missing Children 116000 ([email protected])
● European Helpline for Children & Adolescents 116111

“The Smile of the Child” will continue deploying for refugees and migrants its nationwide network that is comprised among others of the Mobile Medical Units of Intensive Care for Children and Newborns, the Multi-medical Unit Hippocrates and other Mobile Medical Units, a Pediatric Care at Home Unit, the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056, the European Hotline for Missing Children 116000 and the European Helpline for Children & Adolescents 116111, all three interconnected with the 112 European Emergency Number, a number of specialized logistical tools (search and rescue vehicles, jeeps, radio networks, repeaters), a Mobile Command Center, the Crisis Management Center “ODYSSEAS”, a Disaster Recovery Area at the Athens International Airport and the Search and Rescue Team “Thanasis Makris” with the participation of internationally certified canine teams.

“The Smile of the Child” is a non-profit, non-governmental Greek Organization active in the critical field of child protection, support of children and families with children in need, as well as free public health service for children, both in prevention and treatment. The Organisation was founded by a 10-year-old boy, Andreas Yannopoulos, before he succumbed to brain cancer in late 1995. In 23 years of operation the Organisation has supported more than 1.480.000 children and their families in the country.

The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian aid Operations department (ECHO), the European Commission helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. This EUR 800.000 action was financed through the EU Emergency Support Instrument, which enables the European Commission to fund emergency operations within the EU territory in the context of the refugee and migration crisis. For more information, please visit the European Commission’s website.