Experiences of women refugees from the African Great Lake region regarding reproductive health services in the city of Durban, South Africa.
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Introduction There is a sparse literature on the experiences of refugee women regarding reproductive health services. In South Africa specifically, research that documents such issues is lacking. Upon their arrival in South Africa, refugee women do not undergo any screening, and this exposes them even further to health risks making them more prone to all different types of diseases, as many of them are survivors of rape and many other acts of sexual violence. This study looked into reproductive health with a particular focus on reproductive healthcare services in Durban-based public healthcare facilities among refugee women from Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The aim of the study This research study was conducted with the aim to document the day to day experiences of refugee women and uncover their challenges regarding reproductive health services in Durban-based public health facilities. Methodology The study was qualitative in nature and adopted a descriptive phenomenological approach. Using this study design, in-depth interviews were conducted with eight (8) refugee women aged between 24 and 48 years old. The participants originated from the Great Lake countries, namely, Burundi, Rwanda and DRC. Results The findings in this study revealed negative experiences, which included: medical xenophobia, language barrier, discrimination, unprofessionalism, lack of healthcare education and good customer-care training, failure to obtain consent from the patients and lack of confidentiality, ill-treatment, financial challenges, internalised fear, shortage of healthcare professionals and overcrowding of public health facilities, and religious and cultural hegemony. The findings also revealed some positive experiences including: positive care and treatment, and social support. Conclusion The conclusions are that refugee women who participated in this study face a number of challenges and have had negative experiences regarding reproductive healthcare services received in public healthcare facilities in the city of Durban, and that their issues have not been given attention by either government, local authorities, institutions concerned with refugees, or health policy makers. Recommendations Recommendations of this study included recommendations to the department of health to train healthcare workers in handling refugee issues, in customer care as well as in refugee rights to access and utilise healthcare services in South Africa. Recommendations were also made to policy makers in the health sector to consider involving refugee community leaders when formulating policies. In addition, the Department of Health should consider employing interpreters at the public facilities most visited by refugees. Key words Refugees Women Reproductive health services Public healthcare facilities