WHO Europe Reports on Health of Refugees and Migrants
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The ‘Report on the Health of Refugees and Migrants in the WHO European Region: No Public Health without Refugee and Migrant Health’ indicates a trend towards worse pregnancy-related indicators for female refugees and migrants, and increased vulnerability of refugees and migrants to sexually transmitted infection.

WHO is preparing a global action plan on the health of refugees and migrants in line with the health dimensions of the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees.

21 January 2019: A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe provides evidence on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region, and outlines recommendations on the way forward. According to the report, health needs specific to refugees and migrants are not always sufficiently addressed by existing health structures. The authors also stress that there is a “very low risk” of transmitting communicable diseases from the refugee and migrant population to the host population.

The WHO European Region stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south, and from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It comprises 52 member States, and nearly 920 million people. The ‘Report on the Health of Refugees and Migrants in the WHO European Region: No Public Health without Refugee and Migrant Health,’ launched on 21 January 2019, notes that the region hosts approximately 35 percent of the international migrant population. According to the report, the influx of refugees and migrants into the region since 2015 has come in a series of waves, with each encompassing tens to several hundreds of refugees and migrants.

Among other findings, the report indicates a “marked trend for worse pregnancy-related indicators” for female refugees and migrants, and increased vulnerability to sexually transmitted infection because of sexual violence that can occur during refugees’ and migrants’ transit and in their destination countries.

The WHO European Region hosts approximately 35 percent of the international migrant population.

On initiatives taken at the European level, the report cites the adoption of Health 2020 – the European health policy framework – by the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in 2012. It also notes: a High-level Meeting on Refugee and Migrant Health in the WHO European Region in Rome in 2015, where governments agreed on the need for “a common framework for collaborative action on refugee and migrant health”; and the adoption of a Strategy and Action Plan for Refugee and Migrant Health in the WHO European Region by the Regional Committee in 2016.

The Strategy and Action Plan outlines nine strategic areas relevant to refugee and migrant health in the region as well as core indicators for these areas. Per the report, the implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan is periodically followed up by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and a first survey targeting the region’s member States was carried out in 2018. The survey revealed progress in strategic planning and policy development to meet the health needs of refugees and migrants in the region, the report says. It also found that a national focus on advocating for a rights-based and multisectoral approach to health had been reported by more than half of the 40 responding governments. The report further notes a lack of reliable, comparable and nationally representative data on refugee and migrant health, partly due to the fact that refugee and migrant health-related variables are not commonly included in national datasets.

On the way forward, the report calls for: enhancing stewardship for implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan for Refugee and Migrant Health in the WHO European Region at the national and local levels; enhancing and monitoring refugees’ and migrants’ access to preventive and curative health care; and creating societal conditions conducive for the health and well-being of refugees, migrants and communities. It also calls for advancing the implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan for Refugees and Migrant Health through: strengthened governance and evidence; the assessment of needs, and effective communication; strengthened policy; grassroots participation and partnership; health financing and human resources; national data collection systems; and maintaining traction and enhancing political leadership.

In December 2018, UN Member States adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, also known as the Marrakech Compact on Migration, and the Global Compact on Refugees. The report announces that WHO is preparing a global action plan on the health of refugees and migrants in line with the health dimensions of these Compacts, in close collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and other international organizations, as well as UN Member States and relevant stakeholders, including refugees and migrants. [SDG Knowledge Hub Coverage of Migration Compact and Conference]

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