Medical Xenophobia: The Voices of Women Refugees in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

  •  Yvonne Munyaneza    
  •  Euphemia Mbali Mhlongo    


BACKGROUND: Women refugees are mostly affected due to their specific needs for reproductive health services. In their attempt to utilize reproductive health care services, women refugees face medical xenophobia by the health care professionals. Upon their arrival in South Africa, refugee women do not undergo any screening, and this exposes them to health risks making them more prone to all different types of diseases, as many of them are survivors of rape and other acts of sexual violence.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to describe the voices of women refugees regarding reproductive health services in public health institutions in Durban KwaZulu-Natal

METHODS: A qualitative, descriptive design was used. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews with eight women refugees living in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Thematic content analysis guided the study.

RESULTS: Two main themes emerged from the data: negative experiences/challenges, and positive experiences. The negative experiences included medical xenophobia and discrimination, language barrier, unprofessionalism, failure to obtain consent and lack of confidentiality, ill-treatment, financial challenges, internalised fear, religious and cultural domination, the shortage of staff and overcrowding of public hospitals. The positive experiences included positive care and treatment.

CONCLUSION: The study concluded that discrimination and medical xenophobia remain a challenge for women refugees seeking reproductive health services in public health institutions in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

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