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Refugee women are vulnerable to poor maternal healthcare, according to research conducted on almost 14,000 refugee women who received care from Doctors of the World (Médicins du Monde) in refugee camps in Greece

A stakeholder roundtable discussion was held in light of Ireland’s commitment to resettle 4,000 refugees under the Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme between 2015 and 2017, more than a quarter of whom will be from Greece, focussing on how Ireland can ensure equitable access for these women once they have arrived in Ireland.

The findings, which were presented at a discussion hosted by MSD for Mothers, revealed the challenges associated with securing equitable access to primary healthcare and maternal health for pregnant migrant and refugee women across Europe.

The range of barriers these facing these women when seeking care included prohibitive costs, a lack of awareness of their rights, and poor understanding of the workings of the healthcare system due to different cultures and languages; a significant number of mothers who are entitled to insurance coverage not being aware of it.

In addition, issues such as fear of complaint, arrest, discrimination or denial of medical care, limitations on the free maternal care mothers are entitled to receive, and cumbersome administrative requirements involved in accessing this care were also highlighted.

In response to the findings, Doctors of the World has outlined a set of policy recommendations entitled, Refugee Health Policy Recommendations for European Governments and EU Institutions” which it has called on all EU Member States to support.

Ger Brennan, Managing Director of MSD Human Health said: “Access to maternal healthcare for every mother, especially the most vulnerable, has to be a priority for us all.

“We are committed to engaging with health authorities and policy makers to work towards the removal of the barriers and challenges to this vital care”.

Dr. Nikitas Kanakis, President of Doctors of the World Greece, added: “We hope our Refugee Health Policy Recommendations will spur EU and national decision-makers to join together to tackle the barriers vulnerable mothers and other migrant women face in trying to get good care.

“We believe all EU Member States, as well as the EU institutions, should put this issue higher on their political agendas. With rising rates of migration, it makes economic sense to act soon”.