Refugee woman’s struggle for access to chronic medication

DRC refugee Assan
Debora Assan, a 44-year-old a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Bernard Chiguvare

Despite the ongoing xenophobic attacks on African, an HIV positive woman claims that she was turned away  at the hospital because she is a refugee
“I have no solution to the type of life I am leading. Bread winner in my family is my 22-year old daughter who works only one day per week,” says Debora Assan a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Assan (44) fled DRC when both her husband and one of her daughters were killed. She hitchhiked from DRC to Zimbabwe where she spent a month. While in Zimbabwe she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and was immediately put on medication.

Since 2013 (year she arrived in South Africa) she has never secured employment. Well-wishers sometimes provide her with food parcels.
The 22-year old daughter works as a maid in Muizenberg. She is paid R200 per day.  She uses R22 to and from Delft to Wynberg where her employer picks her up and drops her back at the same place after work.

The family did not use the official Beit Bridge border post route into South Africa since they had no passports. According to Assan, daughter was raped by people who assisted them to cross the border illegally.

“On arrival in Cape Town I stayed at what I think is a small refugee camp near Hanover Park for six months. Later we were asked to leave. I moved to Blikkiesdorp in Delft where I met other Congolese nationals,” says Assan.

She has been getting her medication either from Hanover Park, Delft or Mitchells Plain hospitals.

Assan is weak and says she cannot walk long distances in search of work. Most of the time she stays indoors with her two children aged three and seven.

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“I have no money for paying fees for my children. All the time I am home with them,” she says.

According to a teen staying next to their shack the children are locked up in the room during school hours and set free when other learners come back.
Asked why she locked her children in the room, Assan says, “There will not be anyone to play with my children so I fear for their life outside. I also do not feel comfortable. They may go around begging food.”

The 22-year old says the family has a meal around 8:00am but is not certain of the supper.

Assan visited Cape Town Refugee Centre  (CTRC) on 4 February 2017 pleading for any assistance.

CTRC supplied her with a form to be completed by a doctor that could necessitate her getting financial aid or any other support.

“On 7 February 2017 I visited the Mitchells Plain Hospital seeking a doctor’s confirmation of my status but he refused to sign the document. This is

the final nail on my life because I was hoping to get some form of assistance for my family,” she says.

The Western Cape Refugee and migrant leadership organization condemns the alleged doctors actions.

“This is unacceptable and shows a complete discrimination that refugees are facing in South Africa. This doctor does not respect his or her code of conduct and has no moral ethics for his work,” the organization says.

The organization was formed last year in December. It is an umbrella body for refugees and all foreign nationals in the Western Cape. Its core objective is to stand for the concern of all foreign nationalities in South Africa.

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The family stays in one room further divided into two by curtains. One room is the kitchen and the other is used as a bedroom.

In an email response the department said that “The Western Cape Government Health can confirm that the patient was assisted by the doctor on duty on Tuesday 7 February 2017 and told to provide more clarity from the Refugee Centre, as the form given to the doctor was not clear in terms of the requirements required … Once further clarity has been provided by the Refugee Centre then the Department will be able to assist the patient provided that she gives consent to have the doctor disclose her medical history”.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.