IOM Tells UN High-Level Meeting that Universal Health Coverage Must Include Migrants

Jacqueline Weekers, Director of IOM’s Migration Health Division speaking at the 74th UN General Assembly in New York. Photo: IOM 

New York - IOM Monday (23 September) welcomed the landmark Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage at the 74th UN General Assembly in New York.  

Speaking on behalf of IOM Director General António Vitorino, Jacqueline Weekers, director of IOM’s Migration Health Division, said that for Universal Health Coverage to be truly universal “it needs to progressively include migrants, especially those marginalized or in situations of vulnerability.”    

IOM joined UN Principals, Heads of State, Civil Society and other stakeholders in welcoming the approval of a landmark Political Declaration at the High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).     

Mrs. Weekers was speaking at a multi-stakeholder panel on the topic ‘UHC as a driver of equity, inclusive development and prosperity for all’.    

IOM believes that migration is a social determinant of health that can both improve the health status of migrants, their families and host communities, and expose them to health risks and related catastrophic health expenditures.     

The organization believes that the path towards achieving universal health coverage needs to overcome the many obstacles faced by migrants and communities in accessing essential health care services.    

To exclude migrants from universal health coverage is to “ignore the positive potential of migration for development,” she further noted. She pointed to the role that migrants play themselves as co-developers and providers of people-centred health services in countries of origin and destination.     

“This UHC declaration joins the 2030 Agenda, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the migration-relevant WHO Frameworks and Action Plans to create mutually reinforcing cooperation frameworks that can catalyse policy and programmatic coherence on migration health,” Mrs. Weekers added.    

Since its founding in 1951, IOM has made a priority of serving the health needs of migrants and host communities. IOM reaches and empowers those most vulnerable both within and across borders. IOM bridges the needs of both Member States and migrants through development of policy and best practices, strengthening health systems for effective service delivery, research and information-sharing. In 2018, IOM had migration health projects operational in over 125 countries with a total expenditure of USD 190 million.     

Through decades of expertise and experience, IOM has shown how improved health outcomes for migrants and communities at origin, transit and destination can be achieved through whole-of-society and whole-of-government actions. As the UN’s related agency responsible for migration, and Secretariat and Coordinator of the UN Migration Network, IOM stands ready to leverage the full potential of cross-agency cooperation, in partnership with our Member States, UN partners and other stakeholders, including migrants themselves, to leave no migrant behind.     

For more information, please contact Poonam Dhavan in New York and Geneva Tel. +41 79 701 0971 Email: or Safa Msehli, IOM Geneva Tel. + 41 76 613 3175 Email: