IOM, Kenya root for equal access to health for migrants

13:03, April 28, 2011      

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Kenyan government on Wednesday appealed to the world to provide migrants with equal access to health care as those available for its nationals.

IOM's Regional Medical Health Coordinator for Africa and Middle East Dr. Aleksandar Galve said that contrary to popular belief the migrants don't spread diseases and only need equal access to health services.

"National health systems should be inclusive to migrants needs by being culturally sensitive. Stigmatization as well as stringent regulations by host communities causes migrants to avoid visiting health centers," Galve said.

He was speaking ahead of an upcoming workshop organized in Mombasa by the IOM and Kenya's Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation to develop a National Health policy that will provide migrants and mobile populations with access to Health services.

Kenya has taken the lead in the East African region by building a health care facility in its main refugee's camps in Dadaab and Kakuma which host most of refugees in the country.

Kenya's Minister of Public Health and Sanitation Beth Mugo said that migrants and mobile populations are deterred from accessing essential health care services due to a number of social factors such as irregular immigration status or language and cultural barriers. "We must welcome and accommodate them in our laws, policies in order to ensure the migrants have healthy lives among us," Mugo said in the speech read on her behalf by Dr. Willis Akhwale, Head of the Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

The best model country according to Galve is Spain which has received a large influx of migrants from North Africa.

"Countries should follow the example the Spain which offers free primary medical assistance to all immigrants in their country regardless of their immigration status," Galve added.

Marginalization and lack of specific policies by most governments to deal with health of migrants pauses a health risk to all citizens of the world. Akhwale said that there are close to one billion people who have moved from the original places of birth for cultural and social reasons.

This number includes rural and urban migrants, Pastoralist and refugees. The most common reason for migration include the search for better job opportunities as well as escaping natural and man- made disasters.

Migration in and itself is not a health risk but conditions surrounding the migratory process can expose migrants to more health risk and vulnerabilities.

Migration and human mobility has accelerated with globalization increasing the urgency of national governments to embrace health systems that accommodate the needs of migrants.

Source: Xinhua
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