Undergraduate research sheds light on health problems of migrants in Morocco | Emory University

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By sharing the stories behind the numbers, an Emory College student sheds light on the gaps in access to healthcare for undocumented migrants in Morocco due to the current realities of global politics and the pandemic.

Madelyn R. Haden’s Distinguished Thesis sheds light on how European Union (EU) policy and funding affect the lives and experiences of sub-Saharan migrants, including access to healthcare and societal integration in Morocco. She received top honors for her dissertation and this spring obtained a BA in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies and a Minor in Human Health.

“In my early research it seemed like Morocco was doing everything right on paper, but when I spoke to people with migrant status it was clear that the numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Haden says. “Large-scale framing doesn’t really show the human cost and consequences of these policies and how they dehumanize people. “

His specialization thesis, “Outsourced migration and secure health: a case study on how EU-Moroccan relations influenced the accessibility of health care among sub-Saharan migrant communities in Morocco during the coronavirus pandemic Was funded by the Emory’s Halle Institute for Global Research. An abridged version is currently being peer reviewed for the Refugee Review.

“There are many actors involved in the field of migration studies in Morocco and by writing this thesis Maddie was able to secure a place for her voice in this interdisciplinary discourse which is quite amazing for an undergraduate student. », Explains Rkia Cornell, professor of pedagogy. and Arabic Language Coordinator, who was Haden’s principal thesis supervisor.

A Presidential Fellow of the US Department of Education, Haden is also an alternate for the Fulbright Fellowship in Morocco and a recipient of the Shepard Emory Scholarship for Graduate Studies.

This summer, she will virtually intern at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, and the nonprofit Americares in Connecticut. She will then pursue her thesis while pursuing graduate studies at the University of Cambridge.

Family history prompts her to study

Growing up in a town in Oklahoma so small it isn’t printed on a map, Haden discovered her desire to understand the migrant experience as she leafed through photos of relatives posed by shacks in what looked like a desert. She learned of her family’s migration from Moldova to become a rural farmer in 1930s Dust Bowl Oklahoma.

But it wasn’t until after studying abroad at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco that she realized how difficult migrants’ lives are.

From the 1990s to the present day, uprisings and genocide in Syria, Yemen and Cameroon have made Morocco a funnel through which migrants traveled to Europe., Cornell said.

As a result, Morocco receives funding from the EU to encourage the integration of migrants in Morocco rather than relocating them.

The program was very popular, which is why Haden was surprised to see huge rusty buses transporting undocumented migrants to the Sahara Desert.

“These bus sightings started it all for me,” says Haden. “I wanted to know: ‘what does this mean? “”

The pandemic increases the vulnerability of migrants

Returning to the United States, Haden worked with a Moroccan journalist and translator from Al Akhawayn University whom she met while studying abroad to interview 15 migrants and 12 human rights activists remotely during the pandemic.

One migrant was a young Nigerian woman who had three children since arriving in Morocco nine years ago, two requiring emergency cesarean sections. The hospital will not issue birth certificates until she pays the $ 3,000 she owes. Without a birth certificate, her children cannot go to school and assimilate.

“She has a lot of anxiety and seeks tele-mental health care, but with the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to beg for cell phone minutes or other goods like food,” Haden said.

When the pandemic struck, Moroccan residents were taken into custody, which posed significant challenges for the migrant community, Haden said.

A strong police presence and the use of militarization tactics (including tanks, raids and arrests) have raised suspicion among migrant populations often blamed for the pandemic. Some migrants said they were rounded up for COVID-19 testing without any explanation; others have been deported to COVID-19 centers without adequate resources. As a result, migrants had less confidence in public health and were less likely to receive care.

The government issued “mobility certificates” which allowed a person from an extended family to go to work, buy groceries and do other activities outside the home. Like many migrants, a mother of two was unable to obtain a certificate and could not feed her family. They ate only bread, sugar and water for two weeks until an NGO started distributing food regularly.

“Madelyn’s thesis illustrates how the study of human health can investigate some of the most central problems in the world today,” says Michelle Lampl, Professor Charles Howard Candler and Director of the Center for the Study of Human Health, who also participated in Haden’s thesis. Committee. “His critical investigation of the vulnerability of migrants in Morocco in the context of COVID-19 adds to the emerging focus on the central role played by social circumstances and structural skills issues in health care. “

In addition to Cornell and Lampl, Haden’s thesis committee included Devin Stewart, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies, and Florian Pohl, assistant professor of religion.


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