Dying to Survive; Healthcare in Krisan Refugee Camp

Refugees and locals await service at Clinic in a nearby town

Jean Mutarabirwa wanders around an old dilapidated two-room building. He looks sad as he examines the cracks along the walls.

Mutarabirwa, a refugee from Rwanda, is the only nurse working at the only clinic in the Krisan Refugee Camp in the Western Region of Ghana.

”The healthcare in this camp is very poor. As the only nurse in this clinic, I think more should be done to improve the lives of the people in Krisan,” says Mutarabirwa.

He thinks the clinic should be renovated and more qualified personnel should be employed to serve the refugees with the health service they need, currently the clinic only operates in emergency situations and most residents in Krisan travel by foot to the local hospital a kilometer away.

The camp was built in 1996 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to serve as a home to refugees from Liberia who fled the country due to the civil war. The clinic was also built in 1996, but has seen little renovation since then. Healthcare is one of the most important things to a refugee, but more accessible healthcare is what they are still striving for in Krisan.

When the number of refugees increased, the UNHCR worked with the Ghana Health Service and other NGO partners to manage the clinic as a means of ensuring that refugees in Krisan had access to basic health services and emergency healthcare. However, the clinic was not big enough to satisfactorily serve the healthcare needs of the refugees.

In the course of providing better health care for the refugees, the UNHCR coordinated with National Health Insurance Authority in 2007 to enroll Krisan refugees and provide them with National Health Insurance. Under the scheme, the refugees would have access to free primary healthcare at Eikwe hospital, the NHIS-accredited facility about a 1km away. This lead to the partial closure of the camp’s clinic.

The National Health Insurance seemed like the ideal solution, however it came with its own problems which did not spare the Krisan population.

some refugees waiting for vehicle to go to hospital in Town

Though the premium payments and registration for Krisan refugees were completed by UNHCR, many refugees in Krisan complain that they have yet to receive their new health insurance cards, meaning some refugees are either denied healthcare or forced to pay the fees despite living in abject poverty.

The Camp Manager Mr. Martin Bannerman attests to the complications associated with the NHIS. “The process of renewing the NHIS cards is not efficient; hence the delays in accessing healthcare from the town hospital,” he explains.

Mutarabirwa is not the only refugee in Krisan asking for quality healthcare for the people. Frank Sernavula, popularly known as Coach, is a 42 year old Liberian who has lived in the camp for 8 years. He explains, “When people are sick we contribute money and send him/her to Eikwe and even sometimes sick people are not even treated at all.”

To make matters worse, the only ambulance in Krisan has been taken to the new refugee camp, Ampain, which was built in response to the Ivorian Crisis in 2011 and is located a few kilometers away. This makes it difficult to transport emergency cases to the Eikwe hospital.

Recently a Rwandese woman passed away because there were no ambulance services available the night she went into labor. She was transported by wheelbarrow to Eikwe hospital, where she passed before she could meet her new baby girl.

The people in Krisan are praying that the Ghana Health Service is able to provide the services they provide to other national clinics in Ghana to the people in Krisan and support the UNHCR by supplying and rebuilding the clinic in the camp. The health situation for refugees in the camp is unlikely to improve until refugees have better access to healthcare and a more effective health insurance system.

By: Isaac Osei

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