November 9, 2022
Doctors of the World statement on COP27
In France, slums are synonymous with precarious housing, unsanitary conditions and difficult living conditions. More often than not, families living in slums must struggle without access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and electricity. The effects of living in such conditions can lead to an excess of health issues.
The conditions of most slums in France are completely deplorable, which is why Doctors of the World has mobilized its team to fight for the right to adequate housing. Our fight focuses on de-stigmatization around those living in slums, raising awareness on forced evacuations, and demanding better housing solutions.
In 2018, the French President Emmanuel Macron, declared his desire to reduce the existence of slums in his speech on France’s fight against poverty. Along with this speech, strategies were shared on how to allow people effective access to housing, work, and also to a stabilized course of care and schooling for children. Unfortunately, the current approach is struggling to produce positive effects on the ground, and a large number of prefectures continue to evict without relocating.
The reality is that France prefers to eradicate slums through the demolition of these habits, without providing open access to housing for populations living in poverty and in unsanitary conditions. These repeated evictions have serious consequences on the health of people living in slums in France: not only are they excluded from the health system, but they also break the continuity of care and make it difficult to prevent and fight against epidemics. This disastrous policy has been denounced by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights and the European Commissioner for Human Rights.
The conditions of French slums are hazardous and can quickly deteriorate the state of one’s health. There is an urgent need for care for many of the inhabitants yet they face immense difficulties in trying to access healthcare. In order to receive care and be able to cover their health expenses, they must gain access to state medical aid or complimentary health insurance.
However, for many inhabitants the process of signing up is too overwhelming and complicated. They struggle with the language barrier, as well as the administrative hurdles and open discrimination that come with the French healthcare system. Additional difficulties are added for European nationals who must follow a complex procedure that further delays their access to healthcare and often results in a renunciation of their rights.
After observing the dire health situation for those living in slums, Doctors of the World France has mobilized its team to intervene. Our program includes on-site medical consultations to treat residents or refer them to healthcare facilities. We also inform women about contraception and family planning activities, as well as the importance of regular medical monitoring in the event of pregnancy.
Doctors of the World health mediators have been working with associative and common law partners to improve the healthcare of those living in the slums. We aim to inform them of their rights to health cover and direct them to common law medical structures. Simultaneously, we work with the staff of these structures to raise awareness of the challenges that individuals face when seeking treatment, housing, and escaping poverty. We work alongside this vulnerable population to facilitate their autonomy and enhance their skills, in order to promote continuity of care despite the daily difficulties they face.
The dire conditions of slums In France is often due to the fact that there is no waste management system, nor access to drinking water and/or toilets. To reduce the health risks attributed with these conditions, DotW is working with partner associations and local authorities to improve living and hygiene conditions and advocate for suitable housing solutions.
In favor of a slum clearance policy that respects people’s dignity, DotW insists that those living in the slums are included in the conversation, so that they may consult with actors in the field to create a viable, sustainable, and respectful approach. Our association pleads for access to suitable housing for all, respecting people’s wishes and taking into account the difficulties linked to poverty. In the absence of dignified and sustainable proposals, we are campaigning for a temporary stabilization of the land which would allow the inhabitants to assert their rights, to access care, and to initiate a dynamic of integration.