After the handover: Exploring MSF's role in the provision of health care to migrant farm workers in Musina, South Africa

Glob Public Health. 2019 Oct;14(10):1401-1413. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2019.1586976. Epub 2019 Mar 5.


Non-state actors, including humanitarian agencies, play a prominent role in providing health care in low- and middle-income countries. Between 2007 and 2009, Musina, a South African municipality bordering Zimbabwe, became the site of several interventions by non-state organisations as an unprecedented number of Zimbabweans crossed the border, putting strain on already burdened local systems. After the initial need for humanitarian relief dissipated, organisations started to implement projects that were more developmental in nature. For example, Médecins sans Frontières developed a mobile clinic programme to improve health care access for migrant farm workers, a programme that was subsequently integrated into the Department of Health. Since the handover of the programme, it has faced multiple challenges. Using qualitative methodology and a case study approach, this paper traces the development of the programme, exploring the changing relationship between MSF and the state during this time. This research raises questions about the implications of short-term 'innovative' interventions targeting the access that migrants have to care, within a context in which policy and programmatic responses to health are not migration aware. Furthermore, it highlights the ways in which the energies and resources of local DoH employees were redirected by MSF's involvement in the area.

Keywords: Migration; Médecins sans Frontières; South Africa; critical humanitarianism; migration and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Farmers*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • South Africa
  • Transients and Migrants*