Lack of health access harms Filipina migrants

Jun. 10, 2007


QUEZON CITYTHE LACK of access to health facilities in host countries aggravates the maltreatment already suffered by some Filipina migrant workers, making them more vulnerable and unattended to.

This was the observation from a case study by the Kanlungan Centre Foundation on the health conditions of women migrant workers who were its clients. The nonprofit advocacy group, established in 1989, offers services to overseas Filipino women workers in difficult circumstances.

Lead author of the study and medical doctor Aurora Barong said as some women migrant workers (mostly domestic workers) have been maltreated and raped, their conditions were even associated (with their) erratic or non-access to health services in the host country.

Of the 236 clients of Kanlungan whose individual case reports were studied, 63 of them reported maltreatment. These women, aged 18 to 40 years old, were employed as domestic workers overseas when they were abused.

In addition, the study cited that 11 women said they suffered both physical abused and rape.

Maltreatment, rape with maltreatment, and fractures were the top three health problems of Kanlungans clients. Those who said they were physically harmed included 57 domestic workers, two caregivers, two dressmakers, and two factory workers.

The study noted emphasized that the suffering led a woman migrant worker to develop psychosis, underlining the gravity of the abuse she experienced.

The study also noted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia posted the highest number of reported cases of maltreatment, with 18 women having worked there. Lebanon is the country that posted the second-highest incidence of abuse. Other countries where these 63 maltreated came from are: Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (six workers each) and Taiwan (four workers).

The cases of maltreatment ranged from being forced to work more than eight hours up to 21 hours on an 8-hour salary. Likewise, the women also said they were fed or dissuaded from taking proper meals, restricted from using the bathroom at certain hours, and barred from leaving their employers home even on government-mandated rest days or holidays.

Aside from these, 36 of the 63 maltreated Filipina migrant workers said their employers also did not pay their salaries, as three were unilaterally terminated earlier than the contract period.

Three jumped off buildings to escape from their abusive employers.

Barong said that what aggravates the conditions of these maltreated women migrant workers is that they do not immediately seek medical treatment, or that clinics in the host country are inaccessible.

Some of the women who were raped went through unwanted pregnancies; the rapists scooting off free from the religio-cultural dilemma suffered by their victims as well as the economic duty over the offspring.

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