COP26: Direct Linkages Between Climate Change, Health and Migration Must be Tackled Urgently – IOM, WHO, Lancet Migration

IOM has helped deliver much-needed measles and Japanese encephalitis vaccines to children in typhoon-hit communities in the Philippines. Photo: IOM/Andrea Empamano 

Glasgow – Climate change, health and human mobility are closely connected. Together, they  impact our societies deeply, and their linkages must be acknowledged and addressed urgently, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Lancet Migration, who are calling on world leaders to take concrete action to mitigate the consequences of climate change on migration and people’s health worldwide, on the occasion of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  

“As the impacts of disasters, land degradation and water scarcity become more intense and devastating, it has become critical to address the impacts of climate change on migration, displacement and health,” stated António Vitorino, Director General of IOM.  “These issues are interconnected but have been addressed in a siloed manner for too long. We must address them together.” 

To help address this gap, a high-level event sponsored by the Government of France was held today to address the multidirectional linkages between the three challenges and foster multisectoral and intergovernmental collaboration to address related needs. The event included contributions from IOM and WHO Directors-General António Vitorino and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as well as high-level representatives of countries affected by climate change.  

“We urge all countries to prioritize community-led climate interventions that address the health of migrants and the reasons they leave their homes,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“That means including human mobility in national climate change action plans, strengthening services and systems for migrants, taking measures to keep essential services running after disasters, and prioritizing access to sustainable and predictable financial resources for vulnerable countries.”  

The climate crisis is already affecting every inhabited region of the globe, with dire consequences for individuals and global public health such as:  

  • rising cases of malnutrition due to soil and drinking water salinization and pollution, land degradation, reduced viability of crops, desertification, and other slow consequences; 
  • more frequent and more severe breathing conditions due to rising air pollution; 
  • a greater incidence of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid due to increased flooding; 
  • weakened and overstretched health systems as storms, heavy precipitations, floods, heatwaves, droughts and other extreme weather events become more frequent and people's health needs increase, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.  

With climate change impacts and their related health threats, many communities seek better living conditions elsewhere, either as an adaptation strategy or out of necessity. This is particularly true in the least developed countries, small island developing states and low and middle economies most affected by climate change.  

As with many other crises, migrants – whether they have already migrated or are migrating due to the direct impacts of climate change – are particularly vulnerable, with specific physical and mental health needs linked to their exposure to climate and environmental conditions. They face a high number of health risks before, during and after their journeys, with access to primary care and continuity of health care often disrupted as a result of migrating, barriers (e.g., gender, cultural, financial, social and linguistic), weak health system capacity, and damaged infrastructure, and various stressors (e.g. economic insecurity, abuse, exploitation, lack of support, xenophobia). 

Prevention, preparedness and the response capacity of health systems – including infrastructure, supplies and workforce – are key aspects in mitigating the potential health risks of climate change-induced displacement and global public health.  

WHO, Lancet Migration and IOM call for the urgent inclusion of migration health in policies related to environmental and climate change issues. They also call for dialogue to increase the resilience of health systems and among communities facing adverse impacts of climate change, as a critical element for actions and collaboration.  

“Now more than ever, resilient and migrant inclusive health systems are needed to address the impacts of climate change, including with the intersection of public health emergencies such as COVID-19,” highlighted Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Chair of Lancet Migration and Dean of University College London, Population Health Sciences.   


COP26 events related to addressing the climate-health-migration nexus 

  • Roundtable on “Climate change, migration and health: transforming tomorrow – a call to action”, Health Pavilion, Thursday 4 November 2021, 6:15 pm GMT. Co-organized by IOM, WHO, Lancet Migration, and University College London (UCL) 
  • High-level policy discussion on “Climate change, migration and health: interconnected challenges for the 21st century”, French Pavilion, Tuesday 9 November 2021, 10:00 am GMT. Co-organized by IOM, WHO and  Lancet Migration, UCL and sponsored by the Government of France.  
  • UN System event: “The Health Argument of Climate Action: The COP26 Health Programme”, Tuesday 9 November, 6:30 pm GMT.  


For more information and interview requests please contact:  

Yasmina Guerda, IOM, Public Health Communications Officer, Tel: +41 79 363 17 99, Email: 

Veronica Cornacchione, WHO, Communications Consultant, 

Miriam Orcutt, Lancet Migration, Email: