According to WHO refugees and migrants at higher risk of falling ill

Refugees and migrants at higher risk of falling ill
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The first-ever Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region reveals that refugees and migrants are at higher risk of falling ill.

Launched in Geneva, Switzerland, on 21 January 2019, the first-ever Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region was released. The report revealed that refugees and migrants are at higher risk of falling ill while in transit or while living in receiving countries due to changes in living conditions and adapted lifestyle choices.

The health of refugees and migrants

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe said: “Today, political and social systems are struggling to rise to the challenge of responding to displacement and migration in a humane and positive way.

“This report is the first of its kind, and gives us a snapshot of the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region, at a time when the migration phenomenon is expanding across the world.”

The report essentially summarises the latest available evidence on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region, from a review of more than 13 000 documents, and the progress countries have made to promote their health.

The report also challenges some preconceived notions that are widely held by host communities about the health of migrant and refugee populations and provides receiving countries with strong evidence to target their interventions.

Falling ill and the preconceived conceptions

The report highlighted how international migrants make up only 10% (90.7 million) of the total population in the WHO European Region. Less than 7.4% of these are refugees.

In some European countries, citizens estimate that there are 3 or 4 times more migrants than there really are.

Moreover, such individuals are at lower risk for all forms of cancer, except cervical cancer. However, cancer in refugees and migrants is more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, which can lead to considerably worse health outcomes than those of the host population.

The report reaffirms that refugees and migrants are entitled to the same human right to health as everyone else in the Region, while acknowledging that in the current febrile atmosphere across the continent, political and social systems may struggle to rise to the challenges of displacement and migration in a humane and positive way.

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