Interview: Fighting Neglected Diseases Among Italy’s Migrant Populations
Since early 2012, more than 1,000 migrants have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily by boat from Libya. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is monitoring the humanitarian and medical situation and providing screening and treatment for tuberculosis and Chagas disease, two neglected diseases to which migrants are particularly vulnerable. In this interview, Dr. Silvia Garelli, MSF head of mission in Italy, discusses MSF’s activities there and the health challenges migrants face.
What is MSF currently doing to help migrants in Italy?
The conditions and health situation faced by migrants without papers in the centers for identification and expulsion continue to be extremely dire, and the situation has been aggravated by an extension of the detention period up to 18 months. Health services at these are subcontracted to private firms instead of being provided by the Ministry of Public Health, and a lack of effective coordination is causing problems that directly affect patients. For example, diseases such as tuberculosis that must be detected very early are poorly diagnosed and treated among migrants, despite the existence of national protocols. Outside of the centers, MSF has identified another medical need that primarily affects migrants (in this case, those from Latin America) and that is not covered by the national system at all: diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease. Chagas is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans by the bite of insects especially prevalent in Latin America.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Photo: Night view of Mineo, an asylum-seeker’s village where MSF provides mental health care for migrants.
Italy 2011 © Mattia Insolera