Slovakia committed to strengthen its public health capacities to respond to the needs of migrants


Dr Severoni presents at the workshop in Bratislava

Migration is one of the great challenges that the European Region is facing nowadays, and European countries are searching for solutions to respond to its public health implications. For this purpose, the Slovak Ministry of Health has requested assistance from WHO/Europe in order to build capacity for a potential increase in the number of asylum seekers and other migrants arriving to the country.

In the frame of the Biennial Collaborative Agreement (BCA) between the Slovak Ministry of Health and WHO/Europe for 2016-17, a workshop  “Improving the health response to refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants” was organized by WHO/Europe with the support of the SH-CAPAC project on 25-26 October 2016 in Bratislava.

In his presentation Dr Santino Severoni, WHO/Europe Coordinator of Public Health and Migration, pointed out that migration has been a reality in the European Region for many years, but only recently more attention has been paid to the health needs of migrants. In general, the health needs of this mobile population are the same as those of the host community, although some particularities must be taken into account given their different cultural or religious backgrounds. The sudden influxes of refugees and migrants to the European Region have posed significant challenges to the health systems of recipient countries and require a scaling up of basic services to facilitate an appropriate response to the essential needs of these groups and to fulfil their fundamental human rights.

In September 2016 the Regional Committee for Europe adopted the Strategy and action plan for refugee and migrant health in the WHO European Region. “It is aimed at helping Member States to cope with the migrant health challenges”, Dr Severoni said. As part of the implementation of this action plan, a Knowledge Hub on Health and Migration will be shortly created in WHO/Europe, which will serve as a multi-stakeholder platform for a better understanding of migrant health. It will gather evidence, policies and good practices to enable knowledge exchange amount countries.

The workshop organized in Bratislava was attended by representatives from four ministries (health, interior, transportation, and defence), public health institutes, regional authorities, universities and the association of general practitioners. Participants were also informed about the tools developed within the framework of the EC-funded SH-CAPAC Project, which are  ready for use in the countries.

“The Regional Office for Europe has conducted joint assessment missions with the ministries of health in several countries to jointly analyse the capacity of their health systems to meet the needs of migrants“,  said Dr Darina Sedlakova, Head of WHO Country Office in Slovakia. Slovakia has expressed interest to conduct such assessment using WHO/Europe assessment toolkit and standards.