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European ministers discuss health needs of people displaced by north African crisis

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Today, European health ministers and high level officials met in Rome to improve international cooperation and coordination on the health issues resulting from the mass migration due to the crisis in northern Africa.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe pledged WHO’s support to countries. She emphasized the paramount importance of providing health care for displaced people.

“The evolving crisis in northern Africa adds public health urgency to the challenge posed by displaced populations”, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “We need to ensure that our health systems can handle a major increase in migrant populations. Every migrant, and particularly those who are most vulnerable, physically injured or suffering from chronic conditions, a crowded environment and a demanding journey, should have timely access to quality health care. This will also be the safest way to ensure that the resident population is not exposed to related health risks. WHO/Europe stands ready to provide support to address those public health challenges, in collaboration with our partners.”

The meeting comprised two parts:

A review of the health situation and the initiatives taken in northern Africa, Italy and other European countries, including the impact of migrations on the health systems of receiving countries; and Discussion on how countries and agencies can prepare, coordinate and manage international support.

Organized by the Ministry of Health of Italy in collaboration with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers, and with the support of WHO/Europe, the meeting brought together high-level delegates from Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta and Spain, together with representatives of the relevant agencies of the United Nations and the European Union (WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)).