For Immediate Release
Doctors Without Borders Calls Attention to Continuing Dangers Faced by Survival Migrants and Refugees in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG / NEW YORK - International medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without
Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is today expressing grave concern
for the health and lives of thousands of survival migrants and refugees
entering and living in South Africa. Sexual violence, appalling living
conditions, police harassment, threats of xenophobic attacks, and a lack
of access to essential health care still define the desperate lives of
thousands of these vulnerable people, according to a MSF briefing paper
MSF is providing health care to survival migrants and refugees at its
clinics in the border town of Musina and in Johannesburg.
The MSF briefing paper,
“Lives of Survival Migrants and Refugees in South Africa,” is
In Musina this year, MSF has documented an increase in the number of
attacks, robberies, and rapes by violent gangs active on both sides of
the border. In the first four months of 2010, MSF treated 103 survivors
of sexual violence, 71 of them since March 1.
In Johannesburg, MSF has been providing an average of 2,300
consultations each month for patients who continue to face serious
health risks related to overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions.
While some still seek shelter in the Central Methodist Church, thousands
more live in abandoned buildings, often without electricity, water, or
basic sanitation—circumstances that put their health and safety at risk.
Last June, MSF released a
report raising the alarm about the dangerous health situation of
survival migrants struggling to eke out a living on the margins in South
Africa. One year later, their situation remains dire and largely
“What has changed for our patients in the last year?” asked Mickael Le
Paih, head of mission for MSF in South Africa. “Very little. They are
still risking their lives when they cross the border, raped in shocking
numbers by gangs, and then facing uncertainty about their status in the
country. Many go on to a life in Johannesburg that continues to endanger
The threat of sexual violence for those crossing the border from
Zimbabwe must be acknowledged. They need access to a formal status to be
legally allowed in the country so they are not forced to cross the
border irregularly and be exposed to this extreme violence. Access to
both emergency shelter and primary health care should be ensured for
survival migrants and refugees, as well as vulnerable South Africans,
living in inhumane conditions.
Without access to basic medical care, safety, and shelter, the lives of
survival migrants and refugees in South Africa remains precarious and
Since 2007, MSF has been providing survival migrants with basic primary
health care, referral to secondary and specialized care, emergency
medical treatment for victims of violence and epidemic outbreaks, and
care for survivors of sexual violence. MSF has been working in South
Africa since 1999 and operates medical humanitarian projects in Musina,
Johannesburg, and Khayelitsha, near Cape Town.
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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.