IOM presents findings of exploratory study on migrants’ health in Central America

IOM Development Fund

El Salvador - According to a recent study done by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)—in coordination with the Ministries of Health of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua—migrants’ health conditions are closely connected to their migration experience, and commonly reflect, among others, several physical, social and environmental constraints. 

The exploratory research - done in the above mentioned countries with returnee migrants and fragmented families still remaining in the community of origin – provides elements of interest about morbidity and migration, health and self-care, appropriation of the existing health service offer, risk perception, sexually transmitted infections (STD)/HIV-AIDS, among others. In El Salvador, this study was also carried out with Central American irregular migrants living in this country.

The study showed that returnees’ risk of getting sick raises gradually in the various phases of the migration cycle. During the return phase, migrants bring with them a great epidemiological burden, pathologies and effects of lived experiences, and also take vulnerabilities and risks with them to their communities of origin. Infectious and non-infectious diseases as well as chronic non-communicable diseases have been found in the returnee migrants.

The outcomes of the study called “Health conditions, access to services and identification of risks and vulnerabilities associated to migration”, have been recently validated in San Salvador and Tegucigalpa during workshops gathering government officials, of technical and managerial levels, of the government institutions forming the Inter-institutional Technical Committee created to monitor the advances of the study.

When referring to the study outcomes during one of the workshops, Violeta Menjivar, Minister of Health in El Salvador, said: “Given the fact that we count on further information on the migrants’ health, the most important phase comes next: integrate all the knowledge obtained in the public policies, programs and projects with the purpose of improving migrants’ health conditions. It is imperative to keep on strengthening the inter-institutional connection developed in the framework of this project to approach the subject of health and migration.”

Likza Salazar, IOM Honduras Officer in Charge, explained “the research and data obtained show that irregular migration and the conditions of forced return currently represent individual risks and public health risks, and as such, have clinical consequences. Besides, the conditions of the journeys themselves may increase the risks for migrants’ health and even they risk their lives.”  

The study also showed that in the families remaining in the community of origin there is a special vulnerability joined to diseases that might be associated to an emotional process of stress or migratory grief. A greater impact of migration on the mental health of fragmented family members, especially women remaining in the community, was observed.

Dr. Carlos Van der Laat, Regional Specialist in Health and Migration for the Americas, highlighted the importance of having new evidence on the migrants’ health and also noted that such information is key for the development of national dialogues, to be carried out in the coming months, whose objective is make the subject matter visible and build –along with government institutions and the society -  a national plan of action to improve the country’s response with respect to the migrants’ health needs.

The study is part of the regional project “Strengthening the capacities of governments of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala to deal with migrants’ health through a multi-sectoral approach”, performed by IOM in coordination with the Ministry of Health, the General Direction of Migration and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Government, agencies of the United Nations System and other organizations of the civil society. The project is funded by IOM Development Fund (IDF).

For further information please contact: Alicia Navalón Enguix, Projects Coordinator, IOM El Salvador; Tel: +503 2521-0526, Email: