Thursday, 20 November 2014
After perfecting their economic model, Greece has revolutioned the way a country takes care of its handicapped children.
A BBC reporter was stunned during a visit to one of Greece’s Government run “institution” where disabled children are locked up in cages – staff say they want to improve conditions but money is short!
Nine-year-old girl stands and rocks backwards and forwards, staring through the bars of a wooden cage.
When the door is unlocked she jumps down on to the stone floor and wraps her arms tightly around the nurse. But a few minutes later she allows herself to be locked back in again without a fuss.
As in medieval time, she is used to her cage. It’s been her home since she was two years old.
This girl, who has been diagnosed with autism, lives in a state-run institution for disabled children in Lechaina, a small town in the south of Greece, along with more than 60 others, majority of whom are locked in cells or cages.
Fotis, who is in his twenties and has Down’s syndrome, sleeps in a small cell separated from the other residents by ceiling-high wooden bars and a locked gate. His cell is furnished only with a single bed. There are no personal possessions in sight anywhere in the centre.
The shocking conditions first came to the attention of the authorities five years ago when a group of European graduates spent several months at the centre as volunteers.
Catarina Neves, a Portuguese psychology graduate was among them.
“On the first day there I was completely shocked… I could never have imagined that we would have this situation in a modern European country but I was even more surprised that the staff were behaving like it was normal,” she says.
At lunchtime the children who are behind bars are fed inside their cages.
The director says only the very basic needs of the children can be covered by her staff. In one shift a nurse and assistant have to change the nappies of more than 20 residents, hose them down, spoon feed them and medicate them.
“We are doing everything we can but we do not have the resources to give anything else,” says Tsoukala.
Ioannis Papadatos, a former trustee at the institution, says the only time kids leave their cages for good is when they die.
These kids have been living in cages for over 10 years. Since 2011, the Greek Government has begun discussing ways to improve their health. That was three years ago.