Challenges Facing Health of Migrants to be Addressed at Key Madrid Meeting
The World Health Organization (WHO), the International Organization
for Migration (IOM) and the Spanish Government, which
currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, will hold a
Global Consultation on Migrant Health 3-5 March 2010 in Madrid to
address the multiple health risks millions of migrants face during
their sometimes perilous journeys in search of a better life.
The meeting, which follows the 2008 World Health Assembly
Resolution on the Health of Migrants, aims to reach consensus on
priority areas and strategies to address health issues associated
with the speed, volume, and complexity of modern migration.
There are approximately 214 million international migrants and
740 million internal migrants worldwide. While most migrants are
healthy, undocumented migrants, people forced to migrate due to
natural or man-made disasters, and groups such as victims of
trafficking, often suffer exploitation and physical and mental
Many factors limit access their to health services and, in turn,
increase the risk of poor health for migrants. These include
poverty, stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, language and
cultural differences, separation from family and socio-cultural
norms, administrative hurdles and legal status. Other risk factors
can be directly related to the conditions under which they migrate,
for example in cases of forced migration or clandestine travel.
"Economic disparities, demographic changes, labour demands,
political upheavals, and climate change are factors driving
migration inside countries or across borders," says Jacqueline
Weekers, senior migrant health officer for WHO's Health Action in
Crises Cluster. "If migrants are marginalized and their right to
health care is infringed, this can result in poor public health
practice and, in turn, poor health outcomes. Governments face the
challenge to integrate the health needs of migrants into national
policies and strategies."
"People migrate in search of a better life. They make a major
contribution to host countries, while at the same time sending home
remittances that are usually spent on education, health and
improving livelihoods for those left behind," adds Barbara Rijks of
IOM's Migration Health Department.
The Madrid Consultation hopes to overcome the obstacles to
generating comparable global data on the health of migrants; to
identify policies and legislation that advances the health of
migrants; to identify key actions to create migrant-sensitive
health systems; and to develop or strengthen national, regional and
global platforms to foster dialogue between the various sectors
involved in migration and health.
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