A Future Without Malaria: Healthy Migrants in Malaria-Free Communities
Switzerland - In 2012 there were some 207 million cases of malaria worldwide and an estimated 627,000 people died from the disease. In endemic countries, which include some of the world’s poorest nations, the burden placed on communities and households by malaria contributes significantly to the cycle of poverty.
This year’s World Malaria Day 2014 theme, Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria addresses the impact of the disease on individuals and societies and examines the broader implications of malaria for the post-2015 Development Agenda.
Migrants and their families are one of the marginalized groups that are particularly at risk from the disease. Rising human mobility – over a billion people are now either internal or cross-border migrants – also exposes migrants including those forced to move, to greater risk than non-mobile populations. Entry and departure from malaria endemic and non-endemic areas increases their exposure to the disease.
Often considered as “hidden or hard to reach”, migrants also frequently face complex obstacles in accessing continuity of essential health care and malaria control services in their countries of origin, transit, destination and after returning home.
IOM works with governments, the World Health Organization (WHO) and humanitarian partners to achieve universal health coverage for all migrants, in line with the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants. This calls for WHO member states and partners to promote migrant-friendly health policies and practices.
Progress in fighting malaria has been achieved. But more multi-sector dialogue within and between countries, coordination and sharing of best practices among many sectors including health, immigration, labour, social services, transportation, environment, the private and public sectors, is still needed, if more inclusive policies are to be developed.
More wide-ranging malaria control initiatives and programmes in the health and non-health sectors are vital to achieve malaria elimination, particularly in countries where significant numbers of migrants live or move around.
Migrants, especially those who are undocumented or enter a country through irregular routes, or those forced to move because of natural disasters or conflicts, still often fall outside traditional control strategies and plans of action, resulting in undetected and untreated infections that are caught too late.
It is therefore crucial to provide malaria prevention and treatment to migrants and their surrounding host communities, regardless of their origin or legal migration status, to avoid the reintroduction and reinvasion of the disease through imported cases.
“IOM wants a future without malaria. We will continue to advocate for migrants’ right to health including malaria prevention, early diagnosis and care. Healthy migrants living in malaria-free environments are better able to integrate into their host communities, positively contribute to social and economic development of their host and home communities, and reduce potential negative public health concerns,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.
IOM implements various migrant-inclusive malaria control and elimination programmes, in close collaboration with governments and partners, particularly in Asia and Africa.
In Thailand, programmes have included community mapping and targeted distribution of long lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), awareness raising, and the creation of migrant networks to promote information sharing in communities of origin, transit and destination.
In Myanmar’s Mon State, programmes extend the reach of the government’s malaria control and containment strategies. Migrant-inclusive community-based malaria control activities include community mapping, mobile teams serving villages for outreach rapid diagnostic testing (RDTs), targeted awareness raising, LLIN and insect repellent distribution.
Campaigns have also targeted migrants in urban areas in the Greater Mekong Sub-region to raise awareness of malaria incubation periods and to promote testing within two weeks of visiting forest areas.
In southern Africa, the challenges that migration poses to malaria elimination are widely recognized by governments. Multi-sectoral partnerships continue to be built and operationalization of existing partnerships has been made a priority.
IOM supports trans-border cooperation by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Malaria Elimination 8 (E-8) countries to combat malaria.
Earlier this month, it took part in a 17-day cross-border regional campaign: Racing Against Malaria (RAM 2) to reduce and eliminate malaria transmission in targeted border communities within the SADC.
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 WHO Media Center, Malaria Fact Sheet. No. 94. Updated March 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/