South Africa: Children Suffer As Foreign Nationals Denied Healthcare

WHILE South Africa hosts the annual Africa Month, there is little to celebrate for some foreign nationals, including children, living in Gauteng amid alleged ill-treatment at government institutions.

The health service sector, according to these members of the community, is the main violator of those rights with complaints they are denied medical attention.

This is in defiance to South African law and policy stating asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants have a right to health care .

In one the grisly experiences foreign nationals have alleged, a prominent human rights lawyer's child has reportedly been denied medical attention at some centres in Johannesburg.

Advocate Daniel Shumba, the human rights lawyer, narrated his ordeal to CAJ News Africa.

"My child of four years is a victim of institutionalized xenophobic treatment in South African hospitals," he says.

"On a particular day only last month, she was refused admission at both Hillbrow and Johannesburg Hospitals at about 0200 hours. I'm currently lodging a complaint with the superintendents, the (Health) Minister (Aaron Motsoaledi) and the Public Protector (Thulia Madonsela), not only on my behalf, but of other foreigners in South Africa," discloses Shumba.

"These are not isolated incidents as Hillbrow clinic has become notorious with doctors and staff there being implicated in xenophobia that has allegedly let the death of foreigners and the refusal to deal with emergencies as was the case with my child."

Shumba, an executive with Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), says he has received similar complaints from foreign nationals.

"I have interviewed other foreigners who have confirmed this inhuman culture of some doctors and staff at hospitals. One of the victims of the Greystone off-ramp bridge this year also testified in our church how after suffering a broken pelvis, staff at a particular hospital wanted to discharge her after four days of painkillers and refused to feed her."

The Africa Diaspora Forum (ADF) President, Marc Gbaffou, concurs such violations against foreign nationals are commonplace in the province.

"We are treated unfairly at government institutions including clinics," says Gbaffou.

"Access to health is a universal right and I don't know why workers at such important institutions behave that way."

He says this is part of the bigger problem of xenophobia.

"We should have a plan to combat racism and xenophobia because they are a threat to a peaceful environment which is crucial for development. Gauteng must be more migrant friendly. Make Gauteng safe for migrants and stop attacks on us," pleads Gbaffou.

The official highlights there have been a number of attacks on the migrant community and social cohesion is critical.

"Social cohesion will save lives," says Gbaffou.

ADF was formed after the 2008 xenophobic attacks, which claimed over 60 people.

ADF aims to create a platform for African migrants to voice their concerns and work towards an integrated society.

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, has noted the concerns of the foreign nationals at a meeting with ADF, held in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

The meeting was held as part of commemorations of Africa Month.

Makhura assured ADF his administration will strive to create the environment that was migrant friendly.

"Gauteng is the most diverse province in South Africa and we want to keep it that way. Africans must feel like they are at home in Gauteng," Makhura says.

The meeting between Makhura presented a platform to strengthen ties among fellow Africans and address issues of mutual interest and concern as part of Gauteng's vision of a social inclusive society.

Gauteng, the economic hub, has provided a place of sanctuary to thousands of foreign nationals that have mostly fled economic and political problems in their home countries.

Source: CAJ News Agency.