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Governments are asked to protect the health of migrants and refugees.

Meeting the needs of refugees and migrants: A technical brief, was published by the World Health Organization (WHO), a comprehensive strategy for achieving universal health coverage that lays out important steps and policy proposals to protect and advance the well-being of migrants and refugees as well as to guarantee health equity for these groups. Nowadays, either voluntarily or forcibly, 1 in 8 people on the planet are moving. People who are moving may experience significant and lasting negative effects on their physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being depending on how they travel and settle in their new location, especially if these issues go unresolved.

In order to ensure that everyone has access to the complete range of high-quality healthcare services they require, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship, WHO advocates for Universal Health Coverage (UHC). However, for many immigrants and migrants in precarious situations around the world, cultural and linguistic challenges, financial obstacles, stigma, discrimination, and exorbitant fees frequently obstruct access to health services.

“Refugees and migrants should have timely access to high-quality, affordable health services that are sensitive to their needs and appropriate for their culture and beliefs, everywhere, at any time, regardless of their motivation, circumstance, origin, or migratory status,” said Dr. Santino Severoni, Director of the WHO Health and Migration Programme. This technical brief aims to provide guidance for inclusive national health plans, policies, and programs that recognize and address the unique health needs and rights of all people in motion and advance us toward health equity and global health security.

Important suggestions

In its most recent technical brief, WHO recommends the following steps for governments, policymakers, program managers in health and other ministries, as well as significant national and local players involved in refugee and migrant health:

  • Accelerate the pace of achievement of international agreements and benchmarks for attaining health equity for migrants and refugees. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include universal health coverage (UHC), the Global Compacts for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration and on Refugees, and the WHO‘s Global Action Plan “Promoting the Health of Refugees and Migrants, 2019-2023” are examples of global targets and commitments.
  • Reorient health systems into inclusive and integrated health services to meet people’s health needs throughout their lives based on a primary health care approach that empowers all individuals, families, and communities to take control of their health. This will address the root causes of poor health outcomes, including critical non-medical factors like education, income, employment and working conditions, and social support networks.
  • Remove institutional, financial, and administrative obstacles that hinder refugees and migrants from receiving healthcare by granting them access to national health systems, social security, or insurance programs.
  • Provide health programs and services that respect a person’s linguistic, religious, and cultural needs, for instance by hiring qualified health workers.
  • Keep track of people’s health while they travel by using health information systems that track and give thorough data on migrant and refugee health outcomes, status, and determinants in every country they pass through and settle in.

To ensure that refugees and migrants can obtain promotion and disease prevention as well as ongoing access to high-quality essential health services, promote refugee and migrant health as part of a “One Health” approach through public education and advocacy. The “One Health” strategy integrates various sectors rather than keeps them apart in order to maximize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems.

About the short

This short was created by the WHO Health and Migration Programme as part of a series of WHO Technical briefs published in advance of the UN High-level Conference on UHC, which will be held in September 2023 under the sponsorship of the UN General Assembly. The third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants will take place in 2023, and the WHO Health and Migration Programme, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Kingdom of Morocco will co-host the discussion.

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