WHO report shows poorer health outcomes for many vulnerable refugees and migrants


According to WHO’s first global report on the health of refugees and migrants. This has dire consequences for the likelihood that the world will miss the health-related Sustainable Development Goals for these populations.

“Today, there are about one billion migrants in the world, or about one in eight people. The experience of migration is a key determinant of health and well-being, and refugees and migrants remain among the most vulnerable and neglected members of many societies,” said Dr Tedros. “This report is the first to offer a comprehensive review of the health of refugees and migrants; it calls for urgent and collective action to ensure that they have access to health services adapted to their needs. It also illustrates the urgent need to address the root causes of ill health and radically reorient health systems to respond to an increasingly changing world.

Based on an extensive review of literature from around the world, the report demonstrates that refugees and migrants are not inherently less healthy than host populations. Rather, it is the impact of various suboptimal determinants of health, such as education, income, housing, access to services, compounded by language, cultural, legal and other barriers and the interaction of these over the course of life, which is at the root of poor health outcomes.

The report recalls that the experience of migration and displacement is a key factor in a person’s health and well-being, especially when combined with other determinants. For example, a recent meta-analysis of over 17 million participants from 16 countries across five WHO regions found that, compared to non-migrant workers, migrant workers were less likely to use health services and more likely to have an accident at work. Evidence has also shown that a significant number of the world’s 169 million migrant workers work in dirty, dangerous and demanding jobs and are more prone to workplace accidents, injuries and work-related ill health than their non-migrant counterparts. migrants, conditions exacerbated by their often limited or restricted access to and use of health services.

The report highlighted critical gaps in data and health information systems regarding the health of refugees and migrants – although data and evidence are abundant, they are fragmented and not comparable between countries and in time. Although these mobile populations are sometimes identifiable in global datasets used for SDG monitoring, health data is often missing from migration statistics and migration status variables are often missing from health statistics. It is therefore difficult to determine and monitor the progress of refugees and migrants towards the health-related SDGs.

“It is imperative that we do more for the health of refugees and migrants, but if we want to change the status quo, we need urgent investments to improve the quality, relevance and completeness of health data on refugees and migrants. We need robust data collection and monitoring systems that truly represent the diversity of the global population and the lived experience of refugees and migrants around the world and that can guide more effective policies and interventions,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Deputy Director-General of WHO.

Although the lack of comparable data on the health of refugees and migrants across countries and over time often hampers the development of good policies for health equity, there are policies and frameworks that address and respond to the health needs of refugees and migrants. However, disparities in health outcomes remain and the report shows that they are mainly due to a lack of meaningful and effective policy implementation.

“Health does not start or stop at a country’s border. Migration status should therefore not be a discriminatory factor but a political engine on which to build and strengthen health care and social and financial protection. We must reorient existing health systems towards integrated and inclusive health services for refugees and migrants, in line with the principles of primary health care and universal health coverage,” said Dr Santino Severoni, Director of the Health Program and WHO migration.

Refugees and migrants can introduce innovative ideas that drive economic and social transformation. The report highlights the extraordinary contributions of refugee and migrant health workers to the frontline response to COVID-19. One of the most notable has been the contribution of migrants in several countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has been particularly significant when, in some countries, up to half of the doctors or nurses were born abroad.

The establishment of inclusive health systems in line with the principle of the right to health for all and universal health coverage would make it possible to quickly identify and support people in need of health services, before many problems arise. worsen. Health systems are only as strong as their weakest link. The inclusion of refugees and migrants is a worthwhile investment for the development and well-being of societies around the world.

Note to editors:

The signatories of the global report are listed here:

“Recognizing that migration and displacement impact the health of the billion people on the move, this report marks a welcome step forward in thinking about migration and displacement through a glass of clarity. The goal is universal health coverage and the idea that everyone has the right to “complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, as affirmed by the Constitution of WHO in 1946″.

Ban Ki-moon, Chairman of the Ban Ki-moon Foundation for a Better Future, 8th Secretary General of the United Nations

“The physical, economic and psychological challenges posed by migration and displacement, as well as integration into host communities, are often misunderstood, ignored or misunderstood. I welcome the way this report brings together available global data on the health of people on the move – international migrants and forcibly displaced people – into one authoritative document.

Abdulrazak Gurnah, Novelist and Professor, Literature Novel Prize (2021)

“This report demonstrates that the most effective way to meet the health needs of refugees and migrants in the short, medium and long term is to use integrated health systems and to include refugees and migrants in the systems that serve host communities. Despite the significant resources and technical improvements it may require, a more inclusive health system has proven to be extremely beneficial for everyone, refugees, migrants and host communities.

Midori de Habich, former Minister of Health, Peru


Comments are closed.