The link between the Ministry of Health and the Migrant communities
Malaria in Suriname is close to elimination. In recent years, the malaria program has directed attention to the still at-risk small-scale gold miners and loggers, to address malaria prevention and control. The at-risk miners are mostly cross-border moving migrant populations who travel back and forth to mines in malaria transmission areas in neighboring countries. Working with these mobile communities has revealed that malaria is not the only health challenge the migrant community in Suriname is facing. Due to among others the poor living conditions, the availability of commercial sex and the long working hours outdoors in the remote forests of the interior, they are also vulnerable to other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and leishmaniasis.
Taking into consideration that malaria is in a pre-elimination state in Suriname, actions have been taken to integrate other priority health services in the malaria program to maintain interaction with the target population and be able to continue malaria screening and awareness building. This has resulted in the start of a clinic offering integrated health services: TropClinic.
TropClinic places strong emphasis on priority infectious diseases affecting migrants in Suriname. The health service offered does not only include diagnosis, treatment and linkage to care but also prevention through awareness and education on malaria, HIV, tuberculosis and leishmaniasis. The scope of infectious diseases is not rigid, and can be adapted to the infectious diseases plaguing the migrant community. Insight into the health priorities of the population is obtained through continuous interaction with the target communities. TropClinic’s employees are conscious of the vulnerability of the migrant population, their limitations in getting access to health care, and the risks and constraints related to commercial sex. They are able to interact with the target population in a number of languages, have been trained in the consequences of stigmatization, as well as the ways of recognizing and reporting (suspected) human trafficking victims.
TropClinic is located in the ‘heart’ of the goldminers community in Paramaribo and offers low-threshold health services to (often undocumented) mobile migrants who regularly visit Paramaribo for trading and resting purposes. Besides these mobile migrants working in the interior of Suriname, TropClinic also welcomes migrants in the coastal area who are in need of health assistance for the focal priority infectious diseases. This concerns especially migrants who are working in the commercial sex industry. By offering services to both mobile migrants from the interior and migrants in the coastal area, TropClinic becomes a link between the Ministry of Health and the migrant communities. As a result the access to health services of this vulnerable population in Suriname can be improved.