Union intervention at the 70th World Health Assembly on health of refugees and migrants

Member States attending the World Health Assembly today discussed a report on promoting the health of refugees and migrants, and considered a draft resolution proposed by Argentina and Italy. During the discussion at the Assembly, The Union read the following statement.

‘Thank you for the opportunity to deliver this statement on behalf of The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and supported by the NCD Alliance. Delivering quality, timely health care to migrants and refugees is essential to the 2030 Agenda mandate to ‘leave no-one behind’. NCDs and mental and neurological health problems pose an acute threat to health in emergency settings: most NCDs require regular treatment over a prolonged period, while failure to provide such treatment in the short term can be fatal.

When expanding on this framework to develop the action plan, we urge WHO and Member States to include actions to:

  • Ensure availability of NCD medicines and care alongside those for infectious diseases: In addition to the clear and urgent need to provide NCD medications listed in the WHO PEN package, including provision for palliative care, we further urge attention to address mental health disorders, especially depression and post-traumatic stress.

  • Implement measures to minimise exposure to NCD risk factors: In refugee camps high availability and consumption of tobacco products; poor ventilation and limited access to clean fuel for cooking, heating and lighting; poor opportunity for physical activity; and unhealthy diets are pervasive, exacerbating the high NCD and ID risk faced by migrant and refugee populations. Health, including health promotion and NCD prevention is a human right especially for vulnerable refugee and migrant populations.

  • Strengthen health systems: Health systems in low resource settings are typically overstretched even before arrival of migrants and refugees in host communities. This necessitates an overarching approach to building resilient health systems oriented towards achieving UHC. A focus is needed on coordination of care provision and follow-up across various providers in a context where continuity of care is especially challenging.

Thank you for your attention.’