Takeaways from the Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants

Today, a comprehensive report was released which captures the key takeaways and action items from the Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants. The report was co-produced in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Kingdom of Morocco, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)–co-hosts of the high-level event which took place on 13-15 June 2023 resulting in the adoption of the Rabat Declaration.

Globally, an estimated 1 billion people are on the move within their country or across borders, including 110 million forcibly displaced. These numbers are rising and are likely to further increase due to persecution, conflicts, climate-related disasters, and the search for new opportunities. Despite global commitments to the right to health and universal health coverage (UHC) for all people, many refugees and migrants around the world still struggle to access quality health care and social services.

The report summarizes the critical discussions at the consultation and provides actionable steps for consideration by governments, UN agencies, and partners emerging from the sessions. Actions aimed to intensify leadership and commitment to the health of refugees and migrants include:

  • increasing efforts to implement the health-related objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), to scale up multisectoral responses and concrete pledges for the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and to drive progress to implement and monitor the WHO Global Action Plan on promoting the health of refugees and migrants (WHO GAP 2019-2030);
  • developing bilateral or regional agreements and international and cross-border collaboration to ensure continuity of care, and developing innovative approaches to move beyond humanitarian assistance towards development-based and longer-term responses;
  • engaging refugees and migrants in decisions, policies, strategies and plans impacting their health and well-being; and
  • developing innovative, sustainable and responsive financing mechanisms, including funding partnerships with national and international financial institutions, regional organizations, and the private sector.

Specific actions for consideration by governments include:

  • increasing political commitment and action to develop inclusive, flexible and responsive health systems and programs by using the Rabat Declaration, which links the GCM, GCR, WHO GAP and other international human rights instruments;
  • committing to UHC that includes refugees and migrants, ensuring mental health and psychological support services as an integral part of interventions, addressing barriers to quality care, identifying unrecognized health needs, combating discrimination and disinformation, reorienting health services to be respectful of a person’s cultural, religious, and linguistic needs and building a health workforce capable of addressing refugee and migrant health needs;
  • ensuring the inclusion of refugees, migrants and host communities in all aspects of health system preparedness and response policies, strategies and plans, in the context of public health emergencies and crises, and developing approaches to support areas affected by the climate crisis;
  • tackling the social determinants of health for refugees and migrants, as well as host communities, strengthening social integration to build in self-reliance, and linking these to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and
  • strengthening health information systems to collect and share comprehensive, disaggregated and standardized data on the health of refugees and migrants, developing national research agendas and establishing national mechanisms to build health policies informed by data and evidence including in climate crisis settings.

By taking these actions, governments and organizations can work towards creating inclusive, responsive and sustainable health systems that address the health needs and rights of refugees, migrants and host communities alike.

Quotes from officials

“The adoption of the Rabat Declaration reflects the commitment of the Kingdom of Morocco and underscores our collective dedication to advancing the global agenda on the health of migrants and refugees. Through this intergovernmental framework, we can meaningfully forge a robust connection between the GCM, the GCR and the GAP, and lay the groundwork for inclusive dialogue, sustainable development and the promotion of the highest attainable standard of physical, mental and social well-being for migrants, refugees and host communities,” said Dr Abdelkrim Meziane Bellefquih, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Kingdom of Morocco.

“The Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants and the adoption of the Rabat Declaration reinforced Member States’ commitments to improve the health of refugees and migrants. This report will bring renewed collaboration and encourage continued high-level political support and shared responsibility for better health outcomes for all, including refugees and migrants,” said Dr Santino Severoni, Director of the WHO’s Department of Health and Migration.

“This report highlights important recommendations towards achieving health for all, including for refugees and migrants. The commitments by Member States, through country led action, towards improving the health of refugees, migrants and their host communities is an important step that calls for greater international cooperation and more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing,” said Dr Allen Maina, Chief of UNHCR’s Public Health Section.

“The report re-emphasizes the need to meaningfully involve refugees and migrants in decision-making processes at all levels and to develop multi-sectoral migrant-sensitive and non-discriminatory policies and programmes that ensure the right to health for all refugees and migrants. The time is now for Member States to invest in refugee and migration health and to recognize the positive contributions refugees and migrants can make to host societies and sustainable development,” said Dr Poonam Dhavan, Director of IOM’s Migration Health Division.

About the Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants

The Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants brought together government representatives from 50 WHO Member States and observers, United Nations agencies and other intergovernmental organizations and non-State actors, including the refugee and migrant communities. It led to the adoption of the Rabat Declaration, committing to supporting countries to develop, implement, and scale up policies to support the health of refugees and migrants with full access to health services. The consultation was co-organized by WHO, IOM, UNHCR, and the Kingdom of Morocco in a drive to assess progress, build further political commitment on refugee and migrant health, guide the continuous implementation of WHO GAP, the GCM and GCR, and inform other policy deliberations.

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