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Detained Refugee: 'They Don't Give My Baby Enough To Eat'

ICE Graveyard 19/04/2016 Marcy Franck

A 35-year old Afghan refugee detained in the Vial detention center in Chios, Greece, is afraid his 5-month old baby will starve. He and his child have been detained since March 21, and his baby has not had enough to eat since they arrived.
2016-04-19-1461102638-2905543-Cups.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-04-19-1461102638-2905543-Cups.jpg Each cup pictured allegedly holds all the formula a baby at Vial receives each day. Photos sent by interviewee.
This father, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, says his baby cries often and is restless at night. He tries to stave off hunger by spoon-feeding bread mixed with water, but his baby has trouble swallowing it, and it also causes digestive distress. He doesn't always have access to warm water, so sometimes his baby won't take the bottle because it's too cold. At night, when his baby wakes crying, he tries offering oranges.
I asked him how he was coping. With the desperation of an anguished parent he said, "I can't see the crying of my baby any more."
According to the reports of aid workers and refugees, babies detained in Vial don't receive enough powdered formula each day to grow and thrive. When mixed with water, their daily ration makes less than 16 ounces of formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies under 6 months old receive between 24 to 40 ounces in 24 hours.
Of the roughly 1,100 refugees inside Vial, approximately 40% are children, including an estimated 25 babies under the age of 6 months. Vial was converted from an open registration center for refugees into a prison-like camp on March 20, when the EU-Turkey deal for refugees went into effect.
I asked Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, to describe what could happen to a baby who doesn't get enough to eat.
"If an average 5-month old baby got 16 ounces of formula per day, they'd not only be starved but at risk of dehydration," Dr. Bernstein said. "Dehydration in an infant puts them at risk for dying from infections or electrolyte imbalances. Longer term, that amount of caloric intake will likely result in stunting, which carries life-long harms to brain and other organ development."
Many volunteers and organizations who had been providing aid to refugees living in open camps on Chios are trying to provide formula, food, and other aid at Vial.
Nurture Project International, a nonprofit that provides infant feeding support to mothers and babies experiencing crisis, released a statement noting that "infants in Vial do not have a lack of milk available to them, the problem is one of access. Nurture Project International volunteers have been to Vial daily to provide breastfeeding support and breastmilk substitute [infant formula] only to be repeatedly turned away."
REPORTS OF THE MILK CRISIS MOUNTAmnesty International spoke to three mothers in Vial who "broke down in tears when they described their exasperation at not being able to get the right kind of food or even sufficient milk for their children."
Human Rights Watch also spoke to a mother from Afghanistan who said, "I have five children and two of them are already sick. It is very difficult to take care of them in a situation like this."

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