First WHO global meeting on the development of an organization-wide framework on health and migration


More than ever before, people are on the move. By the end of 2015 there were an estimated total of 250 million international migrants, which is equivalent to 3.5% of the world’s population. This represents an increase of 77 million or 41% compared to the year 2000. In addition, there are an estimated 21 million refugees and 763 million internal migrants worldwide, which is equivalent to 11% of the world’s population. This rapid increase of population movement has important public health implications, and therefore requires an adequate response from the health sector.

To respond to this growing reality, WHO experts across the globe came together on 12–14 December 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The aims of the meeting were to share knowledge and experiences and to discuss how the Organization might best scale up its support to countries in order to meet the increasing health needs of refugees and migrants and respond to the public health challenges associated with migration. The meeting, organized by WHO headquarters with the support of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, resulted in the development of the first organization-wide framework on health and migration.

Moving the health and migration agenda forward at global and regional levels

Migration is a global phenomenon with different but interrelated consequences at regional and local levels. Back in 2008, World Health Assembly resolution WHA61.17 on the health of migrants was adopted by all Member States, calling for migrant-sensitive health policies and an equitable access to health care. This was followed in 2010 by the first Global Consultation on Migration and Health, organized by WHO and the International Organization for Migration in Madrid, Spain, which came up with a global framework for action. As a consequence of the rapid increase of migration during recent years, the topic of health and migration has gained growing attention in the discussions of the WHO Executive Board and World Health Assembly, and countries will come together again to discuss joint actions in this field in 2017.

At the regional level, the public health implications of the growing numbers of refugees and migrants have also been at the core of the discussions among ministries of health. In the European Region, the first Strategy and action plan on refugee and migrant health was adopted, accompanied by a resolution of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, in September 2016. These documents identify specific actions to be taken and periodically reported to make migration a healthier process. Similarly normative progress is being made beyond the European Region. For instance, in the Region of the Americas the first resolution and policy document on the health of migrants were recently adopted at the 55th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization in September 2016.