The city of Matera | Photo: ANSA/Franco Martina
The city of Matera | Photo: ANSA/Franco Martina

Many migrant farmworkers in the Matera region in Italy suffer from diseases linked to poor working and living conditions, and lack sufficient access to public healthcare, Doctors Without Borders says in a new report.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) carried out 910 medical checkups on migrant farmworkers in and near the city of Matera in southern Italian region of Basilicata between July and November 2019. 

On January 21, the organization released a report on its activities there, called ''Vite a giornata. Precarietà ed esclusione nelle campagne lucane'' (Day job. Uncertainty and exclusion in the countryside of Lucania). 

The NGO said that during their checkups, they found "785 cases of medical conditions linked to difficult working and living conditions" including inflammation, gastro-intestinal conditions and respiratory problems. 

Migrants struggle to get healthcare

MSF found that "more than half of all patients had a hard time accessing the healthcare system, mainly due to administrative barriers, although over 30 percent said they had been in Italy for more than eight years."

Only 43 percent of the patients treated by the organization had a valid healthcare card, said MSF. A reported 27 percent of patients had an expired card, although they had a valid residence permit, because of administrative problems, the report found. Another 28 percent said they never had a healthcare card or an STP code for temporary foreign residents, which gives non-EU citizens the right to get healthcare assistance. Only 2 percent of patients had an STP code, the report found. 

The NGO said that it registered "51 cases of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, respiratory and nephrological disorders -- the majority of which were diagnosed for the first time [by MSF]." 

MSF makes recommendations to authorities

The report examined about 2,000 migrant farmhands who live in the Basilicata region. "During the day, they work in fields to pick fruit and vegetables, in a state of exclusion that often affects their possibility of receiving medical treatment," MSF said in the report.

The NGO made a number of recommendations to improve migrants lives. They urged authorities to start up clinics ''in areas with a strong presence of foreigners" and to develop "long-term strategies to guarantee dignified living conditions to people of foreign origin present in the territory." 

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