South Africa: JRS Hosts Health Awareness Workshop for the Community
29 June 2018

Members of the community participate in the Health Awareness Workshop

Johannesburg, 28 June 2018— This month, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) hosted a Health Awareness Workshop focused on epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. Members of the community, including refugees and asylum seekers, gathered to learn about these health threats, how to manage them, and how to access available resources.

Ms. Marcelline Sangara, a nurse at JRS South Africa, educated participants about the condition of epilepsy. She offered practical tips on how to respond in the event of a seizure and how to manage the disorder long-term.

Like epilepsy, hypertension, and diabetes, HIV is a chronic condition that can be managed, with antiretroviral drugs, a balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle. Ms. Rose Katenga, a nurse from Rosettenville Clinic, shared about the importance of coming to the health clinic at the earliest signs of pregnancy in order to be tested, and if necessary treated, for HIV. She also stressed the importance of bringing documentation to the clinic in order to receive care.

In South Africa, 65% of the population knows their HIV status, and the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) is working toward raising that number to 90%. Mpumelolo Sibanda, from WRHI, presented on and demonstrated a free HIV self-test kit. The kit allows individuals to check their HIV status in the convenience and privacy of their own homes, without a health care professional..

Mr. Mazani, a social worker at iThemba Rape and Trauma Support Centre, gave a presentation on the nature of gender-based violence and resources available, giving practical tips about how to respond to an experience of domestic violence through the Centre and criminal justice system in Johannesburg. IThemba offers support for victims of physical, psychological, and financial abuse, among other forms of trauma. The organization also offers free counseling, food and accommodations, forensic assessments, and play therapy for children.

It is important for JRS to provide health workshops, such as this one, as many asylum seekers and refugees face challenges and xenophobia in trying to access health services. Opening up the workshop to all members of the community created a platform for social cohesion and community building.

At the end of the program, all participants shared a meal and had access to healthcare workers who assessed peoples’ blood pressure, glucose levels, and weight. Building understanding and support for one another around these topics is vital. As Mr. Mazani said, “We need community. We need each other.” 

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

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