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SCIENCE

This week: Paris problems - the need for humanitarian health help in France

Text by Eve IRVINE

Latest update : 2009-08-17

HEALTH visits an emergency shelter camp on the outskirts of the French capital where the association “Medecins du Monde” stepped in to offer shelter and medical assistance to a group of Roma who had nowhere to go.



HEALTH opens its show this week at an emergency shelter camp on the outskirts of Paris. Tents that are home to over 100 people since May when a fire destroyed the warehouse they were taking shelter in. Local officials had asked that they be evicted saying that the occupation of the land was illegal but last month a judge ruled that “Medecins du Monde” were correct in setting this camp up given the medical emergency of the situation.

In one Parisian suburb alone there are some 45 Roma camps with hundreds of people living precariously and suffering the health consequences from that.

HEALTH follows Dr Robert Gastone, a doctor with the association, as he carries out his consultations on an abandoned railway site. He's spent his life helping the most vunerable- all around the world, but today it's in his native France that the humanitarian organisation is being called upon. It’s a fact that Dr Gastone finds hard to understand.
"Carrying out humanitarian work in Paris isn't right...it's not normal to need such humanitarian activities generally across France," he notes.

As urbanites swap the city for the beach in August Paris’ homeless population is left to fend for themselves as many organizations and charities close their doors for the summer.
HEALTH meets with the medical advisor to the Red Cross in France Dr Pascal Cassan. He explains that diseases don’t go on holidays and that the problems from the homeless don’t improve with the weather.

"Dermatological problems can increase because the sun, heat, sweating are conditions that favour ulcers or other skin problems such as eczema. Then you have the infectious diseases’, viruses, chronic illnesses hit isolated people the hardest...for example a diabetic who isn't following any treatment or an alcoholic, they are extremely vulnerable to viral infections and should get treatment but access to free medical care can be a lot more difficult in the summer than in the winter."

And finally, HEALTH goes to Pakistan where prostitution is big business: in Karachi alone there's an estimated 100,000 prostitutes. But in the Islamic Republic where prostitution is punishable by stoning or death, getting the message across about the health risks is easier said than done.
 

Date created : 2009-08-17

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