December 1, 2016
Prior to the 2014 European elections, Doctors of the World – Médecins du monde (MdM) presents its report on access to care for the most vulnerable in Europe in a time of crisis, calling upon European governments and institutions to ensure national health systems are universal, solidarity-based and fair and open to everyone living in the EU.
The economic crisis and austerity measures taken by governments are having serious and lasting effects on people’s health. Undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, drug users, sex workers, the poor and the destitute – groups already vulnerable before the crisis – are being hit hard by a reduction of, or even a total withdrawal of, security systems and networks that once provided them with vital assistance. In Spain, for instance, ever since the Royal Decree Law 16/2012, undocumented adult migrants have been excluded from care.
The increasing poor health of extremely vulnerable patients seen at MdM centres across Europe is a serious cause for concern. While women and children should receive special protection because of their heightened vulnerability, the report shows they are affected by the crisis more than any other sector of the population. Indeed, in many countries, pregnant women without health insurance must bear all costs for antenatal care and childbirth themselves. Financial and legal obstacles are also excluding a growing number of children from accessing healthcare including vaccinations.
Some political parties are exploiting this situation to heap abuse upon the poor and make them scapegoats for the crisis. We are also witnessing an increase in xenophobia, resulting in a surge of assaults and hate crimes.
These inequities undermine the social foundation of solidarity in Europe and must be reversed.
In its report, the international network of Doctors of the World – Médecins du Monde presents key data from 2013 gathered from 29,400 consultations in some of its healthcare centers and clinics across Europe (in 25 cities in eight countries: Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Switzerland):
Two-thirds of pregnant women had received no antenatal care before accessing MdM centres. Among those who did have access to antenatal care, 43% were seen much later than recommended.
At best, only one out of every two children was vaccinated against tetanus, hepatitis B, measles or whooping cough. In some countries, this rate was below 30% – well below the rate of coverage of the general population, which is around 90%.
Only 2% of MdM service users cite personal health as the reason for migration, refuting the argument that social protection mechanisms constitute a pull factor for migrants.
76% of respondents reported having experienced at least one incidence of violence. Nearly 20% of this violence happened in Europe.
We are calling for national health systems that are universal, solidarity-based and fair, and open to anyone living within the EU. Crucially, access to healthcare for all children and all pregnant women must be ensured immediately throughout Europe.
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