Finally, with help from the federal IMSS-Bienestar and Grupo Beta programs, Jiménez and his team have ensured that most shelters in Tapachula have some level of medical personnel and transportation to hospitals if needed.
Despite these measures, some shortcomings remain.
Herbert Bermudez, an employee of Albergue Jesús El Buen Pastor, said he sometimes used his own money to buy medicine for migrants who couldn’t find what they needed in the shelter’s medicine supply.
Additionally, COVID-19 continues to be a challenge at many shelters, creating staffing shortages and safety issues due to overcrowding, which has forced some to close, UNICEF reported in late March.
Jiménez acknowledged that it was difficult at first to deal with so many people from so many cultures, but said they had come a long way.
“I don’t think I know perfection, but I think we are already getting to know each person: migrants from different countries,” he said.
But he also expressed long-standing frustrations.
In his experience, Jiménez said, Haitians in particular are constantly in conflict with those trying to help them, always pushing to the front of the line. He wants everyone to follow the system set up for them and go through the proper channels.
Jiménez also said migrants prioritize their health over everything else, especially immigration appointments and their attempts to leave Tapachula.
“More than anything, you need to know how the migrant puts other things first,” he said. “The least important of these things is their health.”
Benitez from Global Response Management also spoke about this phenomenon, although from a different perspective.
“There are a lot of people who need medical attention or psychological help, but they have other priorities,” she said. “Even though they know they need it (medical care), they would rather go get a job or earn money to feed their families.”
More support needed
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (referred to as AMLO) addressed the inefficiencies of this healthcare network in a large-scale reform of the Mexican healthcare system in early 2020. Healthcare reform was a major topic of discussion of his campaign in 2018.
Although the strengths and weaknesses of the old system, known as Seguro Popular, were nuanced, it guaranteed asylum seekers three months of free healthcare once they had their appointment. you asylum.
The AMLO government has created an entirely public option, known as INSABI, to make health care more accessible to everyone, including migrants. Public funding has been increased by 35% in 2020 to achieve these goals. This ended the three-month limit for asylum seekers and widened access, on paper anyway.
But communications about policy and expectations remain poor, some medical researchers say, and there are many stories of drug shortages and access issues for migrants and Mexican citizens. In addition, cases of corruption have been reported within hospitals, which, when supplies are low, may charge patients for resources that should be free.
Experts have also criticized López Obrador for his severe underfunding of health care. An independent analysis in 2020 indicated that health care in Mexico is under-resourced by up to 658.5 billion pesos. And despite some increases in funding, this gap has not been closed.
Although the Chiapas Ministry of Health provides resources for migrants, the majority of funds distributed by Jiménez come from NGOs. Jiménez is proud of the progress made by his team, but more support is needed, he said.
Jiménez said NGOs he works closely with would soon petition AMLO, who visited Tapachula on March 11, asking for “more resources to be allocated to the health system.”
Benitez agreed that the resources of the Mexican government were lacking.
“The government is not doing enough,” she said. “That’s why it’s important that we NGOs are here.”
Government reforms have also been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Mexico’s public hospitals, which serve people who need more than basic care, have often found themselves overwhelmed and emergency room wait times remain high.
Furthermore, private and specialized treatment is beyond the financial reach of many migrants.
Caught up in these currents, migrants like Karla Matute, the Honduran mother who asked for help for her son’s injured arm.
At the clinic, a doctor put a stronger band on Joryí’s arm and referred him for an X-ray at the local hospital. Matute said the arm probably wasn’t broken – Joryí would suffer more if it was – but it’s worth checking to be sure.
They left the clinic with painkillers, but instead of going to the hospital, Matute went to the National Immigration Office (INM). The night before, she had heard that the agency might be granting humanitarian visas to single mothers with children who slept in the park.
For now, anyway, Joryí’s arm will have to wait.
She hopes to leave soon and head north to Monterrey, where she heard there was work.
Additional reporting was provided by Jennifer Sawhney, Julliette Rihl and Salma Reyes. Translations were done by Jennifer Sawhney and Salma Reyes.