Migration Health


Within its Migration Health Division (MHD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in its role of United Nations Migration Agency, delivers and promotes comprehensive, preventive and curative health programmes which are beneficial, accessible, and equitable for migrants and mobile populations. Bridging the needs of both migrants and IOM’s member states, MHD, in close collaboration with partners, contributes towards the physical, mental and social well-being of migrants, enabling them and host communities to achieve social and economic development.

Migration is now a global phenomenon with close to 244 million international migrants (UNDESA, 2014) and an estimated 740 million internal migrants on the move (IOM, 2015), and must be recognized as a social determinant of health; mobility not only impacts upon an individual’s physical vulnerability, but also on mental and social well-being. Migrants and mobile populations face many obstacles in accessing essential health care services due to a number of factors including irregular immigration status, language barriers, a lack of migrant-inclusive health policies and inaccessibility of services. Such disparities impact the well-being of migrants and host communities and undermine the realization of global health goals, such as preventing HIV and containing tuberculosis, malaria and the human influenza pandemic. High morbidity and mortality among migrants, especially in irregular, forced, or exploitative migration situations is also an underestimated critical health concern that deserves international attention.

In the last decade, protection of the human rights of migrants, including the right to health, has been increasingly recognized and has risen up to the international agenda. Governments and health actors are increasingly recognizing the need for a comprehensive multi-sector approach to migration and health that goes beyond infectious diseases and border control. Migrant inclusive policies that address migration-related health vulnerabilities, non-communicable diseases, mental health, occupational health, environmental health, and access to migrant- sensitive health care services must be promoted in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage. Excluding migrants from a right-based approach to health is poor public health practice, as it increases migrants’ vulnerability, creates and amplifies discrimination and health inequalities, incurs higher health costs for migrants and is, in general, a violation of migrants’ rights. On the contrary, delivering equitable access for migrants can reduce health and social costs, improve social cohesion and, most importantly, will protect public health and human rights contributing to healthier migrants in healthier communities.

In recent years there has been significant progress in advancing the migration health agenda. The 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants, calls upon governments to promote the health of migrants through policies and programmes. Guided by the World Health Assembly Resolution, the International Organization for Migration, the World Health Organization and the Government of Spain organized a Global Consultation on the Health of Migrants in March 2010. Four key priorities materialized from the consultation which umbrellas IOM’s global approach to migration and health:


IOM works in partnership with and is guided by multiple stakeholders in international health and migration sectors. At the national level, IOM engages closely with relevant government ministries, especially ministries of health and immigration, and non-governmental organizations, as well as with private sector entities, such as employment agencies. At the regional and global levels, key partners include relevant UN agencies (especially WHO, UNAIDS, UNHCR, ILO) and civil society partners (including migrants’ associations and academia).

MHD's presence around the world: