Addressing the health challenges of economic migration in Turkmenistan

The government of Turkmenistan and the International Organization of Migration (IOM) organized in November 2014 a high-level roundtable on migration and health to discuss the growing challenges for national officials in this area of work. High and mid-level staff of the Ministry of Health at both the national and regional level, staff from the State Migration Service, IOM staff from Geneva and Turkmenistan, experts from Portugal and the Philippines, the Head of the WHO Country Office in Turkmenistan and staff from the WHO Regional Office for Europe came together in Ashgabat to discuss and increase the understanding of the public health challenges of migration.

The meeting was organized within the framework of the IOM Development Fund project “Addressing migration related health issues in Turkmenistan” which is being implemented by IOM in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan. The Head of the WHO Country Office in Turkmenistan chaired the meeting following the Vice/Minister of Health. Staff from the WHO Regional Office for Europe were invited to present the 2008 WHA resolution on ”the health of migrants", which set the WHO global policy framework in this area of work, highlighting the need for migrant-sensitive policies, migrant health promotion and interregional and international cooperation in this field. The operational framework was also introduced, as well as the European Policy Framework Health 2020, focusing on the key public health challenges and opportunities of migration for Central Asia and Turkmenistan.

The main outcomes from the meeting were:

  • policy dialogue on health and migration was initiated between the national authorities, WHO, IOM and international experts, focusing on ensuring the equitable levels of health promotion, prevention, treatment and care regardless of origin based on the principles of the 2008 WHA Resolution, and addressing communicable diseases (mainly tuberculosis and HIV) as key challenges for the sub-region. 
  • delegates agreed on the need to jointly initiate data collection to monitor migrants’ health, and a proposal will be prepared for submission to the government.

Turkmenistan, a new destination for economic migrants

Due to its recent rapid economic growth, Turkmenistan has become a common destination for international migrant workers, mostly coming from China, Turkey, the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea. Economic migrants work across all the sectors in Turkmenistan; nevertheless, the construction and the oil and gas sectors are attracting an increasing number of migrant workers. In this context, guaranteeing an equal access to health care for migrants is essential to avoid disparities in the health status between migrant and resident populations. Improving the health of migrants will certainly have a direct positive impact on their human development and their social and economic contribution in the country.