Limited healthcare for vulnerable people in Europe ‘poses real risks to entire population’

Limited healthcare for vulnerable people in Europe ‘poses real risks to entire population’
MdM Greece: a refugee girl outside MdM Open Polyclinic in downtown Athens. Photo from MSF.

Vulnerable Europeans are facing immense difficulties accessing healthcare during the pandemic, according to a report from Médecins sans frontières (MSF).

“This is not only dangerous for the health of vulnerable children, but poses real risks to the health of the entire population – the COVID-19 vaccination has proven that,” said Michel Genet, Director of Doctors of the World Belgium.

“Moreover, this type of practice creates a gap between the poor, unvaccinated children and the rich, vaccinated children.”

MSF’s report examined the situation of impoverished Europeans, homeless people, undocumented migrants, EU citizens in extreme precarity and unaccompanied minors in 2020, when the pandemic first disrupted life.

“The access to care by this invisible and sick underbelly of Europe was poor during this pandemic year: 78.2% had no access to care at all at the time of the first contact in the offices of MSF,” the report found.

Belgium scored worst for access to healthcare

Belgium scored the worst: of the 1,773 patients surveyed who visited the Belgian offices, 86.1% had no access at all to the regular care system.

The state of health for vulnerable Europeans was also bad: 26.6% of those surveyed indicated that they were in “very poor physical health,” three times as much as the general European population, where just 8.4% said the same.

“Wherever our patients come from, each one of them is stuck in an extremely hard life,” said Genet.

“They come to us as a last resort, after they hit a wall at the official health care institutions. By the time they come to us, they often have serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions.”

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The report is the result of a survey of 25,355 people and 45,292 consultations in six European countries, each of whom appealed in 2020 to the fixed and mobile teams of MSF. It was produced in collaboration with research teams from UCL (University College London).

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