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Access of Refugee Women to Maternal Health Care Services Explored in Research

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Access of Refugee Women to Maternal Health Care Services Explored in Research

April 22, 2016

As one of the countries in Africa with the highest influx of asylum-seekers, refugee women in South Africa often face challenges in accessing maternal health care services.


UKZN graduate Ms Tatenda Mushanguri (right) with her sister, Ms Lina Mushanguri.

As one of the countries in Africa with the highest influx of asylum-seekers, refugee women in South Africa often face challenges in accessing maternal health care services.

Ms Tatenda Mushanguri, who graduated with a Master of Laws at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is passionate about protecting the rights of refugee women who are often forgotten on the international agenda.

Her thesis titled: “Realising the Right of Access to Maternal Health Care Services for Refugee Women in South Africa”, touched on various branches of law including medical law and refugee law. ‘The aim of the thesis was to bridge the gap between policy and practice in accessing maternal health care services for refugee women by investigating the barriers faced in an environment characterised by xenophobic sentiments,’ said Mushanguri.

She said in terms of Section 27 (g) of the Refugees Act 130 of 1998, refugees ought to receive the same medical treatment services as local people within the availability of State resources. ‘Regardless of this provision it seems that at times health care workers within the public health sector fail to distinguish between refugees and other types of migrants thus violating their rights under international law.’

Mushanguri, who is currently studying towards the Zimbabwean Bar conversion examinations, believes the inability of refugee women to access maternal health care services in South Africa is mainly due to the lack of strict accountability measures within the public health sector.

‘Barriers such as medical xenophobia and the lack of interpreter posts, among others, can all be attributed to poor accountability. I also found that South African public health care workers do not receive training on the treatment of refugees and most of the refugees are traumatised people requiring special treatment.

‘At the moment, refugee camps are not a policy choice of the South African government. However, their establishment could greatly improve refugee rights education and the accessibility of maternal health care services within the camps. Specially trained health care workers could be employed within the camps,’ she said.

She thanked her family and UKZN staff for their steadfast support.  ‘I thank God Almighty for granting me wisdom and strength during my research. My sincere gratitude goes to my supervisor, Adv. Victoria Balogun for her patience, criticism, encouragement and for sharing her rich knowledge on the subject.

‘I’m also grateful to my late father for encouraging me to pursue my dream of studying law. Though he is not here to see me graduate, I know he must be proud of me wherever he is. My utmost gratitude goes to my Mom, and my sisters Lina and Providence, as well as my sister-in-law, nephews and nieces for their unwavering support, love and care.’

She also thanked UKZN’s Dr Caroline Goodier, Dr Zaynab Essack, and Dr Anne Strode for assisting her in different ways. ‘My thanks also to other people whom I have not mentioned but who have contributed towards the successful completion of my thesis.’

Proudly Zimbabwean, she plans to register for a PhD soon and would like to do advisory work under a law firm or an organisation. ‘In time, I hope to establish a legal consulting practice in my home country,’ she added.

Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer



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