Migration health: 2019 activities overview - Leave no migrant behind

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Public health and human mobility have always, one way or another, gone hand in hand. From the Black Death to Ebola, from cholera to H1N1, from influenza to HIV/ AIDS, throughout history, as people moved and migrated, nations have had to find ways to fulfil their social and economic needs, while protecting the health of individuals and communities. As we write and look back on IOM’s Migration Health impact in 2019, the world is struggling to find answers to the COVID-19 pandemic, looking for ways to safely restore human mobility and migration as we knew it. Our interconnectedness has never been more evident. Neither has our need to protect global health security.

Every year, nearly 250 million people move across borders temporarily or permanently for a job opportunity, studying, to flee a crisis back home, or for other reasons. Another 750 million move for similar reasons within the borders of their countries. With the understanding that human mobility affects public health, and health affects human mobility and migrants, for decades, IOM has been providing critical health services to women, children and men on the move, while standing by governments for technical and operational support as needed. In 2019, in lower-income settings and in complex emergencies, along the world’s most perilous migration routes, in the aftermath of natural disasters or in response to disease outbreaks, IOM’s health teams have provided hundreds of thousands with primary health-care consultations, mental health and psychosocial support, sexual and reproductive health care, pre-migration health services, and much more.

This year, more than ever before, as the world reels from the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, we have experienced that health is a cross-cutting component of overall human development and well-being. As such, MHD’s work is deeply anchored in and an important contributor to key international policy frameworks, such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Compact on Migration, World Health Assembly Resolutions concerning migrants and refugees, the 2005 International Health Regulations, and universal health coverage principles.

In line with IOM’s strategic focus on building the resilience of vulnerable populations, pursuing innovative approaches to human mobility, and supporting migration governance, IOM’s Migration Health teams have integrated their efforts throughout the work of the Organization, leveraging in particular three pivotal strengths: community-based approaches, technology at the service of public health, and partnerships across dozens of sectors.

This 2019 Activities Overview shows continued growth across our operations, in terms of number of people directly supported, geographic presence, and the amount of financial resources mobilized. Of course, none of it would ever be possible without the dedication of our staff, the ever-reliable support of our partners, within and outside of the UN system, and the generous backing of all our funders.

The road to fully migrant-inclusive health policies and services is still long. Nonetheless, a reckoning seems to be slowly taking place globally: the health of our societies also depends largely on the health of the migrants that actively contribute to its socioeconomic beats. As we face the current pandemic – an unprecedented public health and mobility crisis – and as we regroup to reimagine stronger systems, let’s aim to ensure that, when it comes to health, no migrant or forcibly displaced person is ever left behind. This will require determination, strong political will, and a tremendous amount of collaboration, but it can be done. Our collective well-being depends on it.

Jacqueline Weekers
IOM Migration Health Director