The Psychological and Physical Impact of Nauru

Reports of sexual, physical and emotional abuse on Nauru have flooded in from social workers, medical professionals and refugees alike. While 31 children have recently been rescued — on several occasions the Australian Federal Court ruling that a child be removed due to a medical emergency despite the resistance of the Office of Home Affairs — there are still over 90 children stranded on the 21 km2 Island.

30 of these children are suffering from resignation syndrome, a rare physiological condition that causes them to completely withdraw from life, refusing food and water until they slip into a comatose state. Regarding one of these children who was transferred to Brisbane in a comatose state last month, the President of Doctors for Refugees, Dr Barri Phatarfod, stated, “this particular child, like many other children, has just completely lost all hope.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for “urgent intervention” in ensuring health care for children on Nauru. AMA President Dr Tony Bartone stresses that the conditions of Children on Nauru is Australia’s responsibility and independent Australian health professionals must be allowed to visit and examine asylum seekers on Nauru, given adequate time and resources to ensure physical and psychological support. The AMA urges National Medical Associations and physicians oppose all legislation and practise that oppose “this fundamental right”.

A physician on Nauru until August 2017, Nick Martin, who served in the British Royal Navy for 16 years, stated seeing people “locked up” on Nauru was “more traumatic than anything I’d seen in Afghanistan.” Martin reflected he left his position frustrated by the opposition of non-medically trained government officials ignoring Medical recommendations with “no reason given”.

And still, nothing has been done to address these concerns. How long will it take for the government to be convinced of the horrific mental and physical toll offshore detention is taking on those who have come to us seeking asylum? How long will we watch on as their mental and physical states deteriorate?

It’s time we stood up and said enough is enough. It’s time we brought these #KIDSOFFNAURU.


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