For the last five years, the Mobile Herbal Clinic Calais (formerly Herbalists Without Borders UK - Calais) has maintained a presence in Northern France supporting refugees and migrants risking their lives to cross the British Border.
Since October 2019, we have seen more than 10,000 people with upper respiratory conditions, skin complaints, digestive issues and more, as well as injuries from police violence. Our medicines are made by a dedicated network of grassroots medicine makers and growers. Together, we made and distributed more than 6,000 medicines at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.
This winter we lost our main funder and were unsuccessful for a handful of grants. We are now asking our community to support us to keep going so that we can continue this incredibly important work!
What does the Mobile Herbal Clinic Calais do?
The Mobile Herbal Clinic Calais is a dedicated mobile clinic that takes place the first week of each month in Calais and Dunkirk. The clinic offers preventative medicine, self-care support, first aid and healthcare access support to hundreds of refugees and undocumented migrants living in the region.
As you would expect for people living in damp, cold, unsanitary conditions, mundane minor health issues like bites and blisters become infected and progress to more serious issues. People are suffering from coughs, colds and flu. Bruises and sprains from falling off trucks. Bruises from beatings from French police. Sicknesses incurred from spending time in a refrigerated lorry, or a sinking dingy.
Refugees are theoretically able to access emergency medical services and a state-run free clinic in France but they often don't know the processes or locations and face many logistical challenges to access them. In addition, people face constant police evictions disrupting access to services. This is why our presence is so important, because we direct many people to local services while also offering medicines such as cough syrup and chest rubs that bring direct relief. Examples of herbal medicines in our dispensary include cough syrups, chest rubs, bruise ointments, mouthwashes, indigestion lozenges, anti-fungal creams, foot powder and more.
We offer herbal medicine because it is empowering as a self-care and prevention tool. It is especially relevant in terms of anti-viral, musculoskeletal and wound care support. Our medicines are grown, harvested and made in solidarity with people who are seeking asylum in the UK and in defiance of the hostile environment they have to face.
How are funds spent?
Each trip costs around 2400. Funds are spent on:
- Medicine making costs are our main expense - we make nearly everything ourselves to ensure quality and sustainability (growing and harvesting the majority of the herbs we use ourselves). We purchase ingredients we are unable to manufacture (oil, glycerine, wax etc).
- Packaging - we purchase thousands of bottles and tubs every year that are both light and unbreakable as people living in terrible conditions are unable to have glass containers.
- First aid materials - we get through thousands of dressings, bandages, supports and other first aid supplies.
- Travel costs - the cost of petrol, ferries and the eurotunnel are ever increasing
- Stipends - Each month the team is led by a clinical supervisor - a doctor or experienced clinical herbalist, with logistics taken care of by a Field Coordinator. Accompanying them are two herbal first aiders. For team members with coordinating responsibilities, the workload of organising a clinic for hundreds of people each month is no small task. Trips can take from 6-7 days, in addition to driving, medicine making in advance, trip preparation tasks and more. In order to sustain the clinic, we achieved funding last year for a stipend of 400 each month for these coordinating roles. We would like this to continue in order to maintain the clinic's viability long-term so that we can keep supporting thousands of people with herbal medicine.
Why does the Mobile Herbal Clinic matter?
We are witnessing a mass movement of displaced people that is unprecedented in our lifetime. People from all over the world are scattered across the coastline of Northern France with the intention of crossing the border to the UK. British law necessitates illegal entry to the UK for almost all those who want to claim asylum. This means people are risking their lives to cross via boats across the Channel or by climbing in and under lorries. Many people have died and countless others have been injured in this process. The channel is now one of the deadliest crossings in the world.
People are commonly fleeing poverty, war and conflict, state violence and repression. Individuals make dangerous journeys from Kurdistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, Pakistan, Chad, Iraq, Albania, Senegal, Libya and Ethiopia and many other places. Many are children and young adults. The refugee crisis has intersecting causes; from wars and conflict to climate change. Drivers of the violence affecting people include racism, colonialism, the growing far-right and corporate profiteering from the border regime.
The Mobile Herbal Clinic matters because no more people should be killed by the border. People deserve healthcare. People deserve freedom. Through the clinic we can support thousands of people, train herbalists and medics in frontline refugee healthcare and acute herbal medicine, and build medicine making skills and infrastructure for what lies ahead. We know from thousands of interactions with people living in the camps that they value our medicine, that the warmth of solidarity makes a difference and that we are needed. Please help us continue this work - we need your support more than ever.