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Seeking asylum: health and human rights in Australia

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To the Editor: We congratulate Newman for her editorial advocating a humane response to the health needs of asylum seekers in Australia.1 Recently, we have been involved in the care of two such vulnerable children, referred by non-specialist doctors at a remote detention centre and transported to Perth, Western Australia, for emergency management and paediatric subspecialist input. These cases illustrate some of the unique medical and psychological problems affecting this population, and the potential risks associated with inadequate provision of health services.

The first child, a 19-month-old boy, presented with marasmus after a prolonged period of food insecurity and concurrent acute Campylobacter jejuni enteritis. He was treated with oral azithromycin and nutritional supplements. Electrolyte supplementation and multivitamins were administered to obviate complications of refeeding.

The second child, a 2-year-old boy, presented with multiple medical problems including pulmonary tuberculosis, severe impetigo (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes), extensive tinea capitis with multiple kerions, lymphadenopathy, malnutrition, failure…