Migrants walk towards the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing with Greece's Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey, 1 March 2020. Huseyin Aldemir / Shutterstock.com - Photo: 2023

Nations Pledge to Improve Refugee and Migrant Health

By Bernhard Schell

RABAT, Morocco, 16 June 2023 (IDN | WHO) — One in eight people worldwide is either a migrant or is forcibly displaced by factors including conflict, persecution, environmental degradation, or the lack of human security and opportunity. With this in view, United Nations member states and several UN agencies have adopted a groundbreaking political declaration, the Rabat Declaration, to strengthen the global commitment to improve the health of refugees and migrants.

The Declaration was approved during the high-level segment of the Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants that took place on 13–15 June 2023 in the Moroccan capital.

The event, co-hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco, the World Health Organization (WHO), IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was attended by government representatives from 48 United Nations Member States(1) and observers as well as representatives from humanitarian organizations, civil society and refugee and migrant communities and UN agencies.

The meeting aimed to promote the inclusion of refugees and migrants in national health systems as part of the global movement for universal health coverage, and work towards resilient and sustainable health emergency prevention, preparedness and response capacities.

Taking stock of the progress achieved in refugee and migrant health and considering the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the countries supporting the Rabat Declaration committed to:

  • accelerate efforts to improve the health of refugees, migrants and their host communities;
  • address the root causes that negatively influence their health; and
  • work towards including health and social protection considerations in national policies related to refugees and migrants.

The declaration also reaffirms the right of every human being, including refugees and migrants, to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Recognition of professional health certifications, enhancing information and communication channels to counter misperceptions and misinformation, ensuring safe working environments for refugees and migrants as well as investing in inclusive and appropriate data systems and high-quality global research are highlighted in the declaration as key to advancing towards the goals.

Countries supporting it commit to including refugee and migrant populations and their host communities in policies and plans for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery to pandemics and other public health emergencies, while strengthening international and cross-border collaboration.

Stakeholders also pledge to foster inclusive financing mechanisms to reduce budget pressures on national systems and promote the meaningful participation of refugees and migrants in health policy discussions to identify and design appropriate interventions for their health needs.

“The holding of this meeting in the Kingdom of Morocco supports the tireless efforts of our country for social justice, believing that health is a fundamental right for all, including migrants and refugees. In this context, the phenomenon of migration and asylum has always been an integral part of the history of the Kingdom of Morocco, as Morocco is considered a point of intersection between Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and is seen as a transit point, a receiving country and a safe haven for anyone who requests it.”

Morocco’s Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said: “Refugees and migrants face significant threats to health, and significant barriers to accessing the health services they need. Protecting the health and dignity of refugees and migrants during their often-dangerous journeys, and in the countries hosting them, is a matter of human rights, and human decency. Because health for all means all, including refugees and migrants.”

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Our ultimate goal for this consultation is to promote the appropriate interventions that improve, protect and preserve the health and well-being of all refugees and migrants, and host communities, This goal cannot be realized without political commitment and a whole-of-government approach. And this means involving representatives from the ministries of health, finance, foreign affairs, interior, planning and other senior officials.”

Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, World Health Organization addd: “Member States today have pledged that no one will be left behind when addressing the health needs of those forcibly displaced. Their commitment to not only include refugees, migrants and their hosting communities in national health policies and plans but, to also include them meaningfully in policy health discussions is a significant momentum towards universal health coverage and worthy of global support.”

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Operations Raouf Mazou stated: “IOM is encouraged by the Rabat Declaration, outlining comprehensive commitments for promoting the health of refugees and migrants. This consultation will be a milestone embodying the political commitment of governments to enhancing global collaboration and mutual support to improve the health of migrants and refugees, and to inform upcoming high-level health and migration meetings and forums.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Source https://www.who.int/news/item/16-06-2023-rabat-declaration-adopted-to-improve-refugee-and-migrant-health

Photo: Migrants walk towards the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing with Greece’s Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey, 1 March 2020. Huseyin Aldemir / Shutterstock.com

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