IOM Hosts Dialogue on Access to Health for Migrants and Host Communities

IOM Hosts Dialogue on Access to Health for Migrants and Host Communities

IOM South Africa, in partnership with Wits University Africa Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS), and with support from USAID/ PEPFAR, hosted a national dialogue to discuss progress made in addressing the health and well-being of migrants, mobile populations and communities affected by migration in South Africa.

The dialogue, which was held in Pretoria on the 23rd of April 2013, reviewed the recommendations from a 2010 National Consultation, looking at what has been implemented, what challenges were encountered, and some of the lessons learnt.

The 2010 Consultation recommended among other issues, a review of the current health policy and legislative frameworks, sharing best practices on implementing migrant-sensitive health services, strengthening partnerships and developing action plans to respond to emerging issues affecting migration and health. These include human trafficking, unaccompanied minors, sexual and gender based violence, and cross border collaboration.

“The health of migrants, host and sending communities has become a key global health issue given the increasing numbers of people on the move. Addressing the health needs of migrants does not only improve individual migrant’s health, it also tackles stigma, related social cost implications and improves understanding that migrant health is a regional public health issue, says Dabea Gaboutloule, IOM South Africa’s Migration and Health Coordinator.

In 2008 during the 61st World Health Assembly (WHA), Resolution 61.17 on improving migrants’ health was adopted by WHA member states. The resolution committed member states to find ways to address and improve migrants’ access to health services. IOM is supporting the government of South Africa at national, provincial, district and local level to implement the recommendations and commitments of the resolution.

Despite progressive legislative and policy frameworks promoting universal access to health services and programmes, migrants still experience challenges in realising their right to access basic health services in South Africa.

There is a gap between legal and practical access. Provisions in the Constitution, in national legislation and in official policy statements, all uphold the right of migrants’ to access health care. But in practice at the level of hospitals and clinics, these rights are often not recognized due to ignorance or xenophobia.

Efforts have been made to address some of these challenges. The 2012- 2016 National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV/AIDS, STI and TB includes migrants as one of the key populations. Migrants face challenges and barriers at individual, environmental and structural level, making them particularly vulnerable to HIV and TB. Operational Guidelines to assist health planners to develop and implement programmes that will lead to achievement of the targets set for key populations in the NSP have since been developed.

“We hope this dialogue through the National Consultation on Migration and Health will come up with long term and sustainable strategies to address these gaps and challenges. IOM will continue to support the government of South Africa at all levels and strengthen the capacity of local partners towards the realisation of healthy migrants in healthy communities,” says Gaboutloule.

The Consultation forms part of the IOM Ripfumelo HIV/AIDS/STI & TB Prevention and Care Programme for Migrants, Mobile Populations and Communities Affected by Migration. The programme is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).