Thank You Dodo - Unheard Voices of Kafala
Seeking healthcare under the Kafala System
It took a year for Berna* to escape her employer. During this period, she worked in a house where she was overworked, isolated, beaten, abused and half-starved. With the help of a neighbour, she managed to flee the house, leaving her passport and belongings behind. She sought medical treatment from MSF and ended up receiving mental health support as well.
According to the latest estimates, there are around 135,000 migrant workers in Lebanon, most from Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The majority are women employed in private homes as domestic workers – cleaning, cooking and looking after the children of their employers – under the Kafala system. Under this system, which is the only legal option open to migrant workers in Lebanon, they are sponsored by an employer, who dictates the terms of their contract and the conditions under which they work. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, as well as restricting their access to healthcare.
Since 2020, MSF has adopted a multidisciplinary approach towards the increased needs of migrant workers in Lebanon. In Beirut, our team provides general medical consultations, prescriptions and dispensing of medications, basic wound care and minor surgeries, besides referring to partner medical facilities when needed for specialist healthcare.
The Lebanese artist Raphaelle Macaron spent a week in our Migrants Workers project in Beirut. Her graphic novel mixes her personal story with the testimony of our patients and staff, highlighting the impact of the Kafala system on health and mental health conditions, through the living and working conditions it creates.
Read their stories
*Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the patients.