Nepal Develops National Migration Health Policy
Kathmandu – Nepal’s Ministry of Health and IOM, the UN Migration Agency, this week (11/10) hosted a half-day consultation meeting in Kathmandu on the development of a National Migration Health Policy to address migrant health issues.
Migration continues to grow in Nepal and migrants and their families, who make an important economic and social contribution to the country’s national development, face a range of health issues at home and abroad.
According to the Department of Foreign Employment, over half of all Nepali households now have at least one migrant family member currently abroad or living in Nepal as a returnee. Nepal ranks 23rd among all remittance-receiving countries in the world. In terms of the contribution of remittances to GDP, it ranks third after Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic.
The new policy, which is in line with Nepal’s newly promulgated 2015 Constitution, aims to address the health rights of Nepali migrants. The level of education and skills of Nepali migrants tends to be low and they are therefore prone to health-related risks throughout the migration cycle. Their health is also affected by the lack of linguistically or culturally appropriate health services in their countries of destination.
“We cannot achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 on universal health coverage unless the health needs of migrants and refugees are met. The access of refugees and migrants to quality health services is of paramount importance to rights-based health systems, global health security and to public efforts aimed at reducing health inequities. This policy will provide an opportunity to promote a more coherent and integrated approach to health, beyond the treatment of specific diseases for all populations, including migrants, irrespective of their legal and migratory status,” said IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Paul Norton.
The policy will be based on principles that recognize the health rights of citizens; the right to health-related information at both pre-departure and employment at destination stages; easy access to health services, accountability of health services providers; and regulated and monitored health assessment services. It will aim to reduce health vulnerabilities of migrant workers in all stages of the migration cycle and also protect the health of host communities from public health threats related to migration.
“Migrants are contributing a lot to the economy of Nepal and their health is very important for us. The new constitution has envisioned health as one of the fundamental rights and aims to improve access to free primary health care services for all citizens, including migrants…This policy is being developed to promote the health of migrants and address the health-related issues and challenges that they face during the migration process,” said Dr. Shrikrishna Giri, Chief of the Policy, Planning and International Co-operation Division of Ministry of Health.
The Kathmandu meeting was attended by government officials, UN agencies, development partners, NGOs, academia, the private sector and media. The Ministry of Health will incorporate feedback from the consultation and initiate a process for endorsement of the policy. Based on the policy, related action plans will be developed and implemented.
The National Migration Health Policy is part of a project: Strengthening Government Capacity in the Development and Implementation of a National Strategic Action Plan on Migration and Health in Nepal, implemented by IOM in collaboration with Ministry of Health. The project is funded by IOM Development Fund.