Today, WHO is proud to launch the first World Report on the health of refugees and migrants.
One in every 8 people on our planet is a refugee or migrant, and the numbers are growing.
With conflicts, climate change, growing inequality, and global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people will be on the move.
Like anyone else, refugees and migrants have the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
But the health needs of refugees and migrants are often neglected or unaddressed in the countries they pass through, or settle in.
They face multiple barriers including out-of-pocket costs, discrimination and fear of detention and deportation.
Many countries do have health policies that include health services for refugees and migrants.
But too many are either ineffective or are yet to be implemented effectively.
The WHO World Report on the health of refugees and migrants is a landmark and an alarm bell.
It provides a comprehensive overview of refugee and migrant health, demonstrating wide disparities between the health of refugees and migrants and the wider populations in their host countries.
For example, many migrant workers are engaged in the so-called “3-D” jobs – dirty, dangerous, and demanding – without adequate social and health protection, or sufficient occupational health measures.
The report also highlights a fundamental knowledge gap: refugees and migrants are virtually absent from global surveys and health data, making these vulnerable groups almost invisible in the design of health systems and services.
But it’s not all bad news. The report also highlights policy trends and examples of good practices from around the world.
And it offers a strategic vision for a set of collective responses to protect and promote the health of migrants and refugees.
We hope governments will use this report to develop evidence-informed policies and actions.
And we hope advocates will use it in their efforts to call for inclusive health systems.
WHO is calling on governments and organizations that work with refugees and migrants to work together to empower them through participatory governance; to include them in the data; to prioritize them in research; and to include them in social protection schemes and financial protection in accessing health systems worldwide.
Because health for all means all, including refugees and migrants.
It’s now my great pleasure to introduce our first guest, Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah, the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, a former refugee, and a signatory of today’s report.
Professor, it’s an honour to have you here. You have the floor.
[PROF GURNAH ADDRESSED THE MEDIA]
Thank you so much, Professor.
It’s now my pleasure to introduce our second guest, Dr Waheed Arian.
Dr Arian is a refugee medical doctor from Afghanistan who has been appointed a United Nations Global Goals Goalkeeper for his work helping to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, including health, well-being, and education.
Dr Arian, welcome. You have the floor.
[DR ARIAN ADDRESSED THE MEDIA]
Thank you very much, Dr Arian.
Before we move to questions and answers, a few brief remarks on the COVID-19 pandemic and the global monkeypox outbreak.
In the past six weeks, the global weekly number of reported cases of COVID-19 has almost doubled.
Deaths are also increasing, but for the moment, not as rapidly as cases. However, more cases means we can expect to see more hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks.
There are many sublineages of the Omicron variant, most notably BA.5, which is the most transmissible variant detected yet.
We have said consistently that this virus will continue to evolve, and we must be ready for whatever it throws at us.
That could be a new version of the variants we already know, or something completely new
We know that for any future variant to become widespread, it must be more transmissible than previous variants. But we can’t know how deadly it will be.
So all countries must be ready. Countries that have dismantled some parts of their pandemic response systems are taking a huge risk.
All countries have gaps.
Now is the time, when hospitals are not full, for all countries to address those gaps in surveillance, immunity, workforce, supplies and resilience.
We will see continued waves of infection, but we need not see continued waves of hospitalization and death. We have the tools to save lives – vaccines, tests, therapeutics and public health tools.
Our current vaccines remain highly effective against severe disease and death.
The focus in every country must be to vaccinate all health workers, all older people and all people at greatest risk.
We will need more vaccines that are better at protecting against infection.
And if and when we get those vaccines, we cannot afford the same horrific inequity that stained the rollout of vaccines last year.
On monkeypox, almost 14 thousand confirmed cases have now been reported to WHO this year, from more than 70 countries and territories.
So far, five deaths have been reported, all in Africa.
Most cases continue to be reported from Europe, primarily among men who have sex with men.
Although we are seeing a declining trend in some countries, others are still seeing an increase, and six countries reported their first cases last week.
Some of these countries have much less access to diagnostics and vaccines, making the outbreak harder to track, and harder to stop.
WHO is validating, procuring and shipping tests to multiple countries and will continue to provide support for expanded access to effective diagnostics.
One of the most powerful tools we have against monkeypox is information.
The more information people at risk of monkeypox have, the more they are able to protect themselves.
That’s why WHO is continuing to work with patients and community advocates to develop and deliver information tailored to the affected communities, and more likely to be accepted and implemented.
This week, WHO updated its guidance for men who have sex with men, to include additional advice and information for the affected community.
Tomorrow, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee will reconvene to review the latest data, and to consider whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
Regardless of the committee’s recommendation, WHO will continue to do everything we can to support countries to stop transmission and save lives.
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