Pregnant immigrants turned away from Joburg clinics. Priscilla Tumira from Zimbabwe says she is eight months pregnant, but she has not had any prenatal health care. Without valid documents, Tumira says, staff at Jeppe and Hillbrow Clinics in Johannesburg refused her registration for prenatal care.

“Our people no longer have enough medical resources, you must go back and give birth in your countries,” she says she was told by a nurse at Jeppe clinic when she arrived without a residence permit or proof of residence.

In April the Gauteng High Court ruled that pregnant women and children under six years old must have access to free public health services irrespective of nationality and documentation status. This followed an application brought by SECTION27 alongside women who had been denied access. The Court ordered that regulations and a policy introduced by the Gauteng Department of Health in 2020, that denies free health care services to pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children who are asylum seekers, undocumented, or persons affected by statelessness are declared unlawful. The Gauteng Department of Health was ordered to amend its policy by 16 October 2023. The court said any such policies or circulars are inconsistent with the National Health Act and are invalid.

Pregnant immigrants refused registration for prenatal care

But Tumira says she has been to both the Jeppe and Hillbrow clinics since the ruling and has again been turned away.

She is one of many pregnant immigrant women from countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo who are struggling to register for prenatal care. Some have no documents at all, others are asylum seekers and refugees who have been struggling to renew their documents. Some end up giving birth at home, risking both the mother and the baby’s lives.

mbare news