What makes girls squirt

Drug scene in Berlin : When the daughter steps into a heroin syringe

Lara had just taken off her shoes. A lot of water ran out of the pump into the warm sand. A nice muck. She didn't want her shoes to get dirty, preferred to walk barefoot. Your grandmother had allowed it. What should happen in the playground? She put the shoes on the concrete next to the sandpit. When Lara came back she had something in her hand. "Omi, look, I stepped in there."

It was on August 23, at the playground at the Wassertorplatz that Lara often visits with her grandmother. It is in the middle of Berlin-Kreuzberg, between Kottbusser Tor and Prinzenstraße. Then the used needle had bored into her foot. It was just a small stitch on the right heel and it hadn't even bled properly. The four-year-old had been put into a heroin injection.

The parents wonder if the girl was infected

Lara, brown hair, round glasses, actually has a different name. Her parents don't want her to be recognized, so they don't want to read their own surnames in the papers; but they want to talk about what happened to their daughter. For more than a month now, Claudio and Jorinde have been concerned about whether the girl has been infected with an illness. With hepatitis or with HIV. The first would be curable, Lara would have to learn to live with the HI virus.

Claudio and Jorinde grew up in Kreuzberg. Her friends live in the neighborhood, as do Lara's grandparents. They accepted for a long time that Kreuzberg is rough, that there is also a drug problem in the neighborhood. In the past year alone, street workers from the drug support service Fixedpunkt in the district collected 7,000 used syringes.

But now it's not just about her anymore - it's about her child. And her concern for Lara has turned into anger.

One day in September, the two parents are back in the playground, the sun is shining, Lara is doing laps on her bike. Claudio points to the gray concrete blocks next to the sandpit. That's when it happened. Claudio and Jorinde talk calmly about what has happened to them in the past few weeks. During the day it is easier to suppress dark thoughts, in the evening in bed they are all the more difficult. The worst part is the uncertainty.

Parents are angry that there are no statistics

The probability that Lara was infected is small, so they calm down. But it will take another six months before infection can be completely ruled out. This is how long it takes before antibodies in the child's blood can be ruled out with certainty.

You have read in, have written letters to the district mayor Monika Herrmann and the governing mayor Michael Müller. They didn't get any answers. What sticks with them: the impression that on the one hand they are too lax with the dealers and on the other hand they have a policy that does not help the addicts enough.

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Jorinde says: “I am most angry that no figures are being collected about the cases.” Claudio says: “There is no interest in capturing the situation. That shocks me. "

Since the unlucky day, they have not felt well when Lara is jumping around in the playground. "Come on, let's go home," calls out Jorinde. Behind them, where the playground ends, a crouched, gray-haired woman shuffles past, her face furrowed.

Shortly before the bushes she turns around hastily, then pushes the branches aside. She crouches on the ground behind a gnarled tree. If you go closer, you can see a syringe and cannulas in her hands, bloody handkerchiefs and excrement lie on the ground. She starts the syringe. It's 12.30 p.m.

In Neukölln, more is being done against syringes

7000 syringes used! In neighboring Neukölln, the fixed point street workers found only half as many. Neukölln is also considered a district in which there is a lot of pressure. The difference: There the responsible city council, CDU man Falko Liecke, sounds the alarm: "The syringes are flying around our ears."

He announced that he would be hiring more social workers and building a fence around the Hasenheide. The park is one of the major drug hubs. Not everyone is convinced that this could help. Jorinde and Claudio perceive: At least he's doing something.

There are no statistics on cases like Lara's. According to a spokeswoman, only two are known to the Kreuzberg district office, one from this year and one from last year. The Berlin health administration only knows of one case from 2018 - in all of Berlin. Why are there no statistics? "So far, there has been no reason to do so at the Senate level," says a spokeswoman. You just don't know anything for sure.

Jorinde, on the other hand, still remembers exactly what happened that Friday evening: She was sitting on the couch at home, it was one of those shimmering hot days. The family lives not far from the playground, in the Graefekiez. Claudio was not in Berlin, but at a wedding with her older son. Her mother called.

At first Jorinde didn't realize, she says, what had happened, what her mother said. How? A syringe? It took a moment: "Then I thought: Oh God, HIV, hepatitis - who knows what else you can get." She immediately got into the car, picked Lara up and drove to the hospital.

The eternal waiting in the emergency room

From seven in the evening to three-thirty in the morning, they waited in the emergency room. Lara didn't even want to go to the hospital - it wasn't even bleeding. Her parents didn't tell her about the risk of infection, she shouldn't be afraid. The doctors in the hospital noted: "Child in very good general condition, awake, friendly, wearing glasses." They did not examine the syringe.

When they left the hospital early in the morning, still nothing was clear. The doctors hadn't examined the syringe, which surprised the family. If a person is infected with the HI virus, the body only reacts after about three weeks.

We cannot reliably say whether there will be more addicts

Astrid Leicht, managing director of Fixpunkt e.V.

After six weeks, antibodies are already detectable in 80 percent of the cases. In the case of hepatitis, the period is similar. That night Jorinde brought her daughter to bed with her, even though she has had her own for a long time. She wanted Lara very close to her.

The probability of an HIV infection from such a bite is only one in a million, explains Johannes Bogner, head of infectious diseases at the University Hospital in Munich. He is not aware of any documented case. The likelihood of hepatitis and tetanus is higher.

The fact that the doctors in the clinic did not examine the syringe is "normal practice". Such an examination is very time-consuming and the parents have to pay for it themselves.

They hear of even more cases from friends

The parents no longer believe that their daughter's misfortune is an isolated incident. It was not only in the hospital that they heard that such cases were more common than expected. The child of an acquaintance had also stepped into a used needle just a few weeks earlier, also in Kreuzberg.

A friend said she found a syringe in the stroller that morning. This does not replace statistics. But why shouldn't there be many more unknown cases?

Claudio and Jorinde used to walk a wide arc when addicts were shouting on the street or shooting themselves. That no longer works with the children. They run everywhere, are curious, take everything in hand.

Today they avoid the Görlitzer Park because of the dealers, the underground station Schönleinstraße because of the aggressive addicts, the Kottbusser Tor because of the dirt. They look for the stretches on which they don't have to explain to the children who the wretched figures on the wayside are. “But we're slowly running out of alternative routes,” says Claudio.

They don't want to move away, so they fight

That's what Kreuzberg is like, it is often said. Claudio and Jorinde no longer accept that. Jorinde comes from 36, Claudio from 61 - the two former Kreuzberg delivery districts. He works in IT, she as a veterinarian. They do not want to accept that their neighborhood also includes heroin syringes in playgrounds. Moving away is out of the question. Fighting already. But where do you start?

Not only are there no statistics on needle stab injuries in Berlin, there are also hardly any surveys on how many people are addicted. According to 2017 drug statistics, the city has around 14,000 heroin addicts. It's an estimate. How exactly the addicts are distributed across the districts is unclear.

It is clear, however, that inner city districts such as Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg are particularly affected. The Senate Department for Health says: “The situation of heroin consumption in public spaces in Berlin is difficult.” About 20 to 30 percent of all drug addicts who inject intravenously are also infected with HIV, also an estimate.

But not even the employees of the Fixpunkt association can say how the numbers have developed in certain parts of the city.

Addicts are crowding into public spaces

If anyone can tell you something about the situation in Kreuzberg, it is Fixedpunkt managing director Astrid Leicht. She also says: “We cannot validly say whether there will be more addicts.” What one can see, however, is that the addict's condition has worsened again in recent years and at the same time many young people are coming. So far, the misery in Berlin has been hidden.

I thought: oh god, HIV, hepatitis - who knows what else you can get.

Jorinde, mother of Lara

But with fallow land and vacant buildings, places of retreat are also disappearing. The addicts are crowding into public spaces, train stations, attics and stairwells, backyards and playgrounds. So far there has been little public pressure. As a result, it is now slowly rising.

She also says: "The low-threshold drug help in Berlin has always been underexposed, other cities are much further ahead." In Berlin there is no nationwide strategy - the last one was from 2004. The demand for a concerted program has so far been on deaf ears encountered.

As is so often the case in Berlin, each district is doing roughly what it thinks is right. As a result, the problem and thus also the addicts would mostly be displaced from district to district.

You have indicated those responsible for them

Claudio has put his laptop on the kitchen table and is looking through his emails. Lara is playing in the next room, “Bibi Blocksberg” is playing. Claudio has now found a channel for his anger. At first he was mad at the addicts, he says. "Although of course they can least do it." Then on to politics.

Because he has the feeling that nobody cares about your situation. That the responsible politicians have given up. That there is no plan. Whether for the syringes in the playground or the situation in Görlitzer Park.

Claudio points to a mail. It's an ad he posted online: Seriously assault for failure. It is aimed at the governing mayor Michael Müller (SPD) and Kreuzberg's district mayor Monika Herrmann (Greens). As a reason he wrote: "The two named persons do not take adequate measures in their offices to prevent or reduce the problem with the addict and in particular the risk to vulnerable children in playgrounds."

The playgrounds are cleaned twice a year

It is not true that nothing is being done in Kreuzberg. The playgrounds are cleaned twice a year by the Green Spaces Department and the sand is sifted through once. The people from Fixpunkt have two contact points for addicts in the district. The street workers run past meeting points of the fixer scene more often, collecting syringes.

The playground where Lara got injured is one of them.

The Berlin Senate also seems to be aware of the difficult situation. In the current budget negotiations, low-threshold drug aid was added one million euros more. And there are always successes to report: Another unofficial meeting point of the scene near the Görlitz train station was successfully redesigned. Bushes gone, a wall torn down. Offer as few hiding spots as possible. Sometimes that's just the way it works.

You hear: Don't feel like that

These are measures that people like Claudio and Jorinde have little notice of. You hear the green district mayor, Monika Herrmann, explain that the dealers also belonged to Görlitzer Park. You hear how the governing mayor explains on ZDF that there is a petting zoo in Görlitzer Park, where “families can have fun like Bolle”. Claudio can get mad about such sentences. What matters to them: don't feel like that.

On October first, six weeks after the sting, they will go back to the hospital with Lara for a blood test, which for the first time can give an indication of whether she was infected with the syringe. The statistics are on their side. But what does that help?

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