26 June 2015
|(Left) Marcelline Sangara with Prince Ike – taking him groceries. (Top Right) Prince Ike inside his room. (Bottom Right) Janine Kukasheta sweeps outside Peter’s shack. (Johan Viljoen/Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|The work is harrowing. There appears to be no hope. The suffering almost defies belief. But JRS South Africa staff continue with their mission (to Serve, Accompany, Advocate), accompanying refugees to the end.|
Johannesburg, 18 June 2015 - The early days of the AIDS pandemic saw an exponential growth in home based care organisations throughout the country. It became the cornerstone of healthcare, providing care to terminal patients in their homes. Since anti-retroviral treatment became available in all government healthcare facilities, this is no longer the case. Furthermore, most indigent patients have access to government social grants, enabling them to afford transport to hospitals and clinics. As a result, home based care is becoming increasingly unnecessary.
With refugees this is not the case. They arrive in South Africa with a variety of health problems, often life threatening. Despite government policy, they are often discriminated against at government hospitals and clinics. Universal access to healthcare is by no means guaranteed. The dismal conditions they live in compound their health problems. The communities they live in ostracise them because they are foreigners. Many lie in shacks and squalid back rooms, with no food, no money to pay for transport to a clinic, nobody to clean them and cook for them – waiting for the end.
With limited resources Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Country Office, is trying to address this need. Its home based care team consists of two Congolese Professional Nurses (Marcelline Sangara and Janine Kukasheta). They visit terminal patients in their homes, providing them with food, medical care and accompaniment.
Peter Sithole (not his real name) comes from Bulawayo (Zimbabwe). His brother was a counselor for the opposition party. In the run-up to the previous elections all his family members received death threats and were harassed by the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organization (CIO). In fear of his life he fled to South Africa. He stayed at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg until all residents were evicted at the beginning of this year. Today he lives in a corrugated iron and cardboard shack in Lawley – an informal settlement south-east of Johannesburg. He is HIV positive, has suffered two bouts of TB as well as multiple organ failure. His kidneys are hardly functioning and his blood pressure is 197 over 124. He has no money to reach a clinic. None of his neighbors even greet him because he is a foreigner. Unable to walk, the only human contact he has is with the two JRS home based caregivers. They visit him weekly, clan his shack, wash him, bring him groceries and cook for him. Clearly he does not have long to live. But Marcelline and Janine are accompanying him to the end.
Prince Ike is a refugee from Nigeria. He suffers from spinal TB, causing his vertebrae to disintegrate. He is also diabetic, as a result of which he has lost his sight. Blind and almost unable to walk, he cannot go to Pretoria to renew his asylum seekers permit. It expired a year ago. Without a valid permit he cannot seek treatment at a local clinic, even if he could see the way and manage to walk there. He lives in a filthy hovel at the back of a slum tenement in Rosettenville. With no windows, he fears the approaching winter – minimum temperatures have already dropped to zero. Once again, the only human contact he has is with Marcelline and Janine. The only food he has is what they bring him. The only time he is clean is when they wash him.
The work is harrowing. There appears to be no hope. The suffering almost defies belief. But JRS South Africa staff continue with their mission (to Serve, Accompany, Advocate), accompanying refugees to the end.
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