The difficulties, hopes and the fear of drowning imbue the stories of the migrants who landed on the Italian coast over the weekend. One of them, a woman, weighs only 35 kilos.
"We spent many days at sea without eating and we were afraid of dying," said a 24-year-old Eritrean woman, Luna, who with 8 other migrants was transferred to Lampedusa this weekend and then taken by a rescue helicopter to Palermo's Civico hospital.
They were on a boat with 450 migrants that had been stopped off the southern coast of Sicily by the Financial Police. Next to her in the obstetrics and gynecology ward of the hospital was a 17-year-old fellow Eritrean in her seventh month of pregnancy and who is upset but refuses to talk. Her friend Luna had been put in the same ward despite not being pregnant, in order to be close to the teenager and give her emotional support.
27 years old, 35 kilos
In the emergency room, there is a 27-year-old Eritrean woman who weighs only 35 kilograms after spending "seven terrible months" in Libya, where she was said to have been raped. She is mostly too tired and scared to speak and suffering from bad memories. But on arriving at the hospital she yells, pointing at her 4-year-old daughter, that "she has not eaten for three days. Help her, give her food, I beg you...". Then she closes herself into a cocoon of tense silence.
The little girl, after some milk and cookies, begins taking care of her mother, as it seems she has been doing for a while. She was the one to choose the clothes for her mother that had been brought by volunteer associations to Lampedusa. She was also the one to try to get her to smile by singing and dancing after raising the cell phone volume as loud as possible. She sang a popular, typical Eritrean song and danced happily, to all appearances. Her mother watched her and seemed to smile with her eyes but without the strength to do more.
Nurse sees 'effects like those of concentration camps'
Similar scenes were seen on the arrival of the 8 Eritreans on Lampedusa, who seemed to hospital staff so weak as to "bring to mind the effects of German concentration camps from WWII", one of the nurses said. Malnutrition and dehydration are severe in the patients. One of the youths who speaks a smattering of English said that he had been able to eat not more than 30 grams of pasta per day for the past 6 months. In the hospital corridors are two very young migrants who were treated and helped to feel more at home.
In an isolation chamber, there is a boy who has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and is thus fighting yet another battle before reaching his destination on his 'journey of hope'.