NAURU: Loss of MSF mental health carers heightens fears for children
Sunday, October 7, 2018
SYDNEY (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Health and human rights advocates fear the mental ill-health of refugees on Nauru could worsen following the Pacific
government’s move to scrap a vital support service.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF – Médecins Sans Frontières)
was told on Friday its free psychological and psychiatric services, provided to both Nauruans and refugees since
November 2017, were “no longer required”.
The medical aid agency was given 24 hours to cease operations
which is comprised of a clinic at the Republic of Nauru Hospital and home visits.
The organisation indicated a desire to find a way to continue its work, reports Australian Associated Press
“At this stage MSF wishes to reiterate our strong commitment to providing quality mental health care to all those in
need on the island,” a spokesperson said.
“We are extremely concerned that the health of our patients may be affected by this decision and urge the authorities to
grant us permission to continue our lifesaving work.”
The abrupt dismissal follows a report by two prominent Australian refugee organisations saying most refugee children on
Nauru are experiencing life-threatening mental health problems, including not eating or drinking and showing suicidal
‘Add to distress’
Advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition said MSF’s absence would “add enormously to the distress among asylum seekers
and refugees” because the Australian government’s contracted mental health care provider, International Health and
Medical Services, was “stretched to breaking point”.
The Department of Home Affairs said on Saturday MSF’s dismissal was a matter for the Nauruan government and that it
would continue to provide “appropriate healthcare and mental health support to refugees and asylum seekers through
contracted service providers”.
MSF uses more than 30,000 doctors, nurses and other mostly volunteer personnel to provide medical aid in more than 70