For the past week, the 13,000 or so people who fled the fires in Moria camp, on the island of Lesvos, have been sleeping rough. At the side of the Mytilene road, they have no water, no food, no blankets.

It is around 3:00 p.m., the sun is crushing with all its might the camp that has formed along the road from Moria to Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesvos. Suddenly, hundreds of people go out of business, leave their shelters, and in seconds, form a line that stretches as far as the eye can see. At the end of the line, volunteers from an NGO collective begin to distribute food.

Thirteen thousand meals will be served. There may not be something for everyone. “The distributions only take place once a day and to have food you have to be strong. There is an organizational problem,” said Michaël, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On Monday September 14, on the road to Mytilene, migrants have been hungry for nearly a week. When the residents of Moria fled the flames that devoured the camp on the night of September 8 to 9 and were blocked by the police on this road, some were able to buy food at the Lidl department store, by the sea.

But the police quickly demanded that the manager pull the curtain down. The gas stations have also closed, as well as all the other businesses along this road which leads to the city center of Mytilene.

To feed themselves, some survivors of Moria ask other migrants who live in Mytilene to buy them food and bring it to them at the informal camp that has emerged. Others managed to save some food they bought in Moria from the flames, often packets of pasta.

Gertrude and Naomi prepare a dish of vegetables in a large pot on a fire. These two Congolese women tried a few times to collect food during the distributions but to be served is a struggle. “To get food, you have to fight,” says Naomi.

“Help us !”

Sitting on a large gray blanket flanked by the UNHCR logo, two young Afghan women who are both called Zahra bottle feed their 5 and 7 month old babies. “We brought back the milk from Moria,” one explains, holding up a small plastic bag half-filled with powdered milk.

The two young mothers lack food and water, as well as clothes for their children. Another young Afghan woman also said, pointing to the headscarf in which she must have swaddled her month-old daughter. “Help us!” She begs.

The only water point in the makeshift camp is a few tens of meters away and is not official. In a street leading up to the olive groves, the pipes for irrigation have been pierced. Around each hole, several people crowd to fill empty bottles, wash clothes or rinse their faces. The water is constantly streaming down the small sloping street and carries garbage.

Blankets and sleeping bags are also in great demand at the camp as the nights are already chilly. Michael only has his blue sweatshirt to sleep on. The Congolese are watching the road because he has heard that volunteers are distributing some sleeping bags in the camp. But so many people miss it that there are probably no more. However, “what worries us the most is not being able to shower and go to the bathroom,” says Michaël.

The only way to wash is to go to the sea. The beach is only a few minutes walk from the Lidl car park. Michaël would like to go wash up, but he has no soap.

A third of children

This afternoon, dozens of children are playing in the sea. The sweltering heat has also prompted a few adults to take to the water.

Azim vigorously shampoos the head of his son Moustapha, 3, while his daughter Rokhoya beams with happiness as she dabbles around him. After five months of confinement in Moria camp, this is the first time they have been able to approach the sea.

The camp has more than 4,000 children, according to Unicef, that is to say a third of migrants from Lesbos. At nightfall, when the sounds of the construction machines building the temporary camp on military land by the sea are silent, we can only hear the cries of children playing. The Lidl car park takes on the air of a playground.

Parents worry that their children will not go to school. Life in the unworthy conditions of the Moria camp, then along this road, could also have long-term psychological consequences on these children, warns Dimitra Chasioti, psychologist for Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The environment they grew up in could affect “the way they deal with difficulties but also their interactions with others,” she describes outside the mobile clinic set up by the NGO a stone’s throw from the tents.

Among adults, it is the anxiety of not having information about their future – and especially the new temporary camp under construction – that is most difficult to manage.

>> To read: “Rather die here than go to a new camp”: In Lesvos, migrants do not want another Moria

On Sunday morning, Notis Mitarachi, the Greek Migration Minister said that “all asylum seekers will be transferred there”. According to his ministry, some 800 exiles are now housed in this temporary camp, closed to the press. AFP took testimonies from people inside who said they did not have a shower or mattress.

Naomi seems as terrified of going to this new camp as of staying on the streets. This mother of a 5-year-old girl and a 7-month-old boy asks, “How’s the camp over there? Should we go?”

A report by Julia Dumont, special correspondent in Lesbos.

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