Refugees can’t afford doctors, choose life of pain, says NGO

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Dr Munawwar Helmi Salim claims that refugees avoid seeking medical assistance due to financial constraints

KUALA LUMPUR: Sick refugees have to bear with any pain or ailments they suffer as they can’t afford to pay medical bills, claims a medical NGO.

Islamic Medical Association Malaysia’s Response and Relief Team (Imaret) chief coordinator Dr Ahmad Munawwar Helmi Salim said many refugees were diagnosed with chronic diseases.

However, they cannot seek further medical attention due to their refugee status and financial constraints.

“Some of the refugees we treat are diagnosed with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and pulmonary diseases.

“Most of them require further medical attention. They do want to see doctors and get treated.

“Instead, they choose to bear with their sickness as they can’t afford to pay as they don’t hold permanent jobs,” Munawwar told FMT.

Munawwar said whatever the refugees earned doing odd jobs was only enough to support their families.

Despite refugees listed under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) being given medical rebates, Munawwar claimed that many of them cannot afford to pay medical bills at all.

“Since they do not have legal documents, many of them are jobless.”

He said Imaret had doctors as volunteers who provide medical assistance to refugees and had also been giving free medical check-ups to refugees once a month for the past few years.

Speaking during the Raya open house event held over the weekend by Human Aid, a refugee aid NGO, he claimed they treated more than 250 patients, some of them who required further medical attention.

The refugees

Limping his way to the open house event was 32-year-old Qorbanali, who claimed that due to his sickness, he was unable to work, what more to pay for his medical bills.

Qorbanali, a Rohingya refugee has been suffering from chronic back pain for more than a year.
Qorbanali, a Rohingya refugee has been suffering from chronic back pain for more than a year.

Unable to speak properly, Qorbanali gestured that he had pain around his throat and all over his back – which explained his limping. He said he had been suffering from back pain for over a year.

Nunhr, 22, who is suffering from gastritis, said she had to work even when she was sick to support her family.

“I am working as a part-time cleaner, illegally. Even when I am sick and constantly having gastric pain, I have to work. If not, I cannot support and help my family survive here in Malaysia.”

Baby Raihan Mohamed Yusof, just three months old, suffers from a pulmonary disease, which requires him to depend on a breathing apparatus.

Three month old Raihan suffers from a pulmonary disease which requires him to depend on a breathing apparatus.
Three month old Raihan suffers from a pulmonary disease which requires him to depend on a breathing apparatus.

His mother, Solimah Budi Rahman, said the cost of medical care for Raihan amounts to RM8,000.

Raihan’s father, Mohamad Yusof Ali Juhar, who has experience teaching, was given a chance to teach at the Selangor Human Aid centre in Selayang. He is the sole breadwinner of the family and has no fixed income.

Human Aid is currently actively raising funds for Raihan through its “Save Raihan” drive. Those who want to donate can get information on the Humanitarian Aid Selangor Society website.