Around 30 per cent migrant labourers in the gulf countries cannot afford medical treatment due to lack of money and remain untreated during their illness while only 18 per cent workers have ability to bear the medical expenses.
A recent study, titled “The cost of living: Migrant workers’ access to health in the gulf” revealed this fact after interviewing 1,101 migrant labourers working in Kuwait who went from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Philippines and some other manpower sending countries.
The Study was conducted by The Vital Signs Partnership, a group of organisatins working together to campaign for better protection for low-paid migrant workers in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The Centre for Migrant Advocacy in the Philippines, the Centre for Indian Migrant Studies, the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice in Nepal, Justice Project Pakistan, and the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) in Bangladesh jointly conducted the research under this partnership.
Among the participants, 51 per cent said they had been discouraged or prevented from accessing healthcare due to not having physical proof of their identity. Some 25 per cent said racial discrimination restricted them from getting treatment.
Among the participants, 67 per cent said that they had experienced healthcare workers displaying negative attitudes towards migrant workers, 37 per cent said they had been subjected to inappropriate language from healthcare professionals and 25 per cent said that they had been denied treatment altogether.
Among the respondents, 65 per cent said that they took non-prescription medicine to treat a serious illness when they could not access better healthcare and 65 per cent of those who responded named Panadol.
Migrant labourers are facing similar kind of problems in other gulf countries as well. Speaking at the report unveiling programme at the National Press Club in the capital on Monday, a 35-year old Bangladeshi woman, Nasima, who worked as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia recounted a pattern of abuse in Kuwait that had a serious and lasting impact on her physical and mental health.
She said that she was seriously overworked, physically beaten, she had to rely on medicine she had brought from Bangladesh, but this quickly ran out. Within four months, Nasima said, she became severely ill but her employer refused to let her visit a doctor until she became completely bedridden. Upon her return to Bangladesh, she was diagnosed with jaundice and liver damage, and continues to suffer from gastro-intestinal issues.
“I begged my employers to send me back to my country. I want to live. But they did not do that. They beat me roughly and denied providing food,” she said.
Workers who are suffering from mid-level of illness are most deprived people. “I think the worst situation to be in is when you are in the mid-range of injured in an accident,” a food delivery driver in Dubai’s emerging low-paid gig economy told the Vital Signs Partnership.
“If it’s minor, you can just get a painkiller or see a doctor in a nearby clinic and you are back on the road. Insurance or not, it is unaffordable. If you are near death, then you will go to emergency. But if you are in the mid-range, you have to figure out insurance-covered clinics and deal with all that. And you lose out on work. And you are in pain.”
“Remittance, dollar and reserve, these three words are repeatedly reciting by the all. If it is so important, government should take care of their health abroad,” said Nur Khan Liton of Ain o Salish Kendra. RMMRU Executive Editor CR Abrar stressed on ensuring health issues in the agreements and contracts with the destination country and making all the agreements public.
A similar research which was the first part of this one found that as many as 10,000 people from South and Southeast Asia die in the Gulf every year and that more than one out of every two deaths is effectively unexplained, which is to say that deaths are certified without any reference to an underlying cause of death, instead using terms such as “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest”.
CR Abrar wanted to know the causes behind the heart attacks of such a huge number of migrant workers.