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Zim illegal immigrants denied access to health care – MSF

Written by Health-e News

International medical and humanitarian aid organisation Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has released a report detailing the extent to which illegal Zimbabwean immigrants, are denied the right to access health care in South Africa.

According to the organisation, Zimbabweans continue to escape from their country in huge numbers, despite the change in the political atmosphere in that southern African country. MSF says many of them ‘€œflee to South Africa as a matter of survival’€, but, they still face hardships in South Africa.  

‘€œThousands of Zimbabweans are facing a huge problem in accessing basic protection, basic shelter (and) basic health care’€, said Dr Eric Goemaere, MSF Medical Coordinator in South Africa.  

MSF says it treats between 4 000 and 5 000 Zimbabweans each month at their clinics in central Johannesburg and Musina in Limpopo, near the Zimbabwean border. The aid agency attributes the high number of consultations at MSF clinics to lack of access to health care in government health facilities, especially for foreigners. Dr Goemaere accuses hospitals and clinics of demanding exorbitant consultation fees, at times over 1 000 rands, which the immigrants cannot produce.  

‘€œThey come to us because they know it’€™s free. So, the theoretical right that they should have access to (free) health care, in practice is not happening’€, he said.      

Rape survivors are not treated any better. According to the MSF, survivors do not even bother to press charges, from fear of being further victimised by police since they do not have the required identity documents.

‘€œIt’€™s unacceptable that access to health care is hindered to such an extent. It should actually not be happening, although I do need to mention that the hospital staff in South Africa is overburdened and I think that the South African government should put much more resources in the health care’€, said Bianca Tolboom, MSF Nurse and Project Coordinator in Johannesburg.  

MSF claims that the prevalence of rape at the border is so serious that it had to open the Musina clinic, to deal primarily with gender-based violence.

‘€œLast month we saw 20 new cases of rape, which we believe is much lower than the existing number of cases. What we got from interviews is that more or less 20 percent of all women crossing the border are victims of sexual violence. More than half of them are gang raped’€, said Dr Goemaere.

The report comes as the world is celebrating International Refugee Day today.  

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