Calabria Project

Italy - Calabria




Start of activities

Primary nursing care, socio-medical guidance and psychological support to agricultural workers and vulnerable people.

On board one of our Mobile Clinics, we treat agricultural workers employed in the countryside.

In a region where agricultural production continues to be a significant part of the economy, the labour force is often comprised of underpaid and exploited foreign workers, hired into the illegal networks known as ‘caporalato.’

Our patients, often forced to work at an excruciating pace, live in makeshift accommodation such as informal settlements and abandoned cottages without access to basic hygiene facilities. They report musculoskeletal pain, dermatitis and gastrointestinal disorders, and other illnesses due to the difficult living and working conditions.

Our work in the Gioia Tauro Plain

With the Polibus – a mobile unit equipped with two clinics, a mediation space and a reception room – we guarantee a service in the Gioia Tauro Plain, particularly in the municipalities of Rosarno and San Ferdinando, where the number of labourers is highest.

On board the Polibus we provide nursing services, socio-medical guidance, and psychological counselling. In addition, during the seasonal harvest period (when there is a greater presence of labourers in the area), we provide basic medical services.

Most of the patients come from sub-Saharan Africa. They have been in Italy for several years and despite the fact that many of them are legal residents – albeit in an often precarious form – they do not have access to the most basic rights.

The Polibus makes several stops a week, at the tent city in San Ferdinando and the Piazza Valarioti in Rosarno. It is organised according to the seasonality of the labourers’ work, in order to meet the patients’ social and health needs in a practical way: six months of orientation activities and nursing services during the low harvest season (April-September), supported by the presence of a basic medical service during the high season (October-March).

"Considering the cyclical nature of farm work, which requires labourers to move to different parts of Italy for seasonal harvesting, the Mobile Clinic is the most functional way to offer services and adapt activities to people's health needs. It is not the patients who must reach us, overcoming the flaws of the local public service. It is we who must get closer to them."

Mauro Destefano, EMERGENCY's Project Coordinator in Calabria

Providing Care in Calabria since 2011

We started working in the southern Italian region of Calabria in 2011, in Rosarno, to offer care and assistance to labourers employed in the citrus harvesting of the Gioia Tauro Plain.

The project was transformed in July 2013 into a permanent Outpatient Clinic based in Polistena, inside a building confiscated from the ‘Ndrangheta, a Calabrian Mafia group.

The centre’s main activities included providing medical prescriptions and medications, administering intravenous and intramuscular therapies, and socio-medical education.

An EMERGENCY shuttle transported patients to and from the Outpatient Clinic, and accompanied them to facilities in the national health system. This ‘service within a service’ filled a gap within the public transport system, which still forces many labourers travel on foot or by bicycle along inadequately lit roads, where they often become victims of road traffic accidents.

In 2016, we began offering psychological support to meet the needs of an increasing number of patients with different types of psychological distress, such as depression, addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The continued analysis of needs in the area led to the transfer of activities on board the Polibus in April 2022 to provide more direct access to care.

In our nine years of activity in Polistena, we guaranteed care and rights to over 7,000 people, providing a total of 44,459 services.

Since the transition of activities to the Polibus, our team in Calabria (a nurse, two cultural mediators, a logistician and a volunteer psychologist, as well as a doctor and a third cultural mediator during the harvest season) has provided over 2,500 services.

The ‘Where the Grass Trembles’ Project

In 2018, we published the report “Dove l’erba trema” (Where the grass trembles), which chronicles the invisible lives of labourers in Southern Italy and the reality of their vulnerability, exploitation and lack of basic rights; EMERGENCY assisted them through several projects in collaboration with the local health authorities.

Contacts and directions

EMERGENCY Mobile Clinic – Plain of Gioia Tauro
Tel: +39 347 8785563
Tel: +39 347 6308217 (Project coordinator)

Opening hours
Mondays: 15:30 – 20:30 at Tendopoli, San Ferdinando industrial area
Tuesday: 10:00 – 18:00 at Piazza Valarioti (next to Palazzetto dello Sport), Rosarno
Wednesday: 15:30 – 20:30 at Tendopoli, San Ferdinando industrial area
Thursday: 10:00 – 18:00 at Piazza Valarioti (next to Palazzetto dello Sport), Rosarno
Friday: 10:00 – 18:00 at Piazza Valarioti (next to Palazzetto dello Sport), Rosarno

How to get there
Bus: Lirosi towards Rosarno
Train: Rosarno central station
Car: from the A2 motorway, take the exit for ROSARNO, SS682

Hours and locations of the Mobile Clinic may vary, please contact the project for more information: +39 347 8785563.


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