Assessing the public health capacity for migration in Portugal

WHO/Europe and the Portuguese Ministry of Health organized a meeting with the stakeholders involved in the public health response to migration in Portugal

WHO/Europe, through its project on Public Health Aspects of Migration in Europe (PHAME) of the European Office for Investment for Health and Development, is assessing the public health response of Mediterranean countries, that may potentially receive a large influx of migrants. Since 2011, migration to Europe has increased due to the social and political turmoil in northern Africa. After the assessment mission in Italy (Sicily),  Portugal is the next country to be assessed.

Over the last few months, WHO has been working with the Directorate General of Health in Portugal and other stakeholders to analyze the health sector  level of preparedness to deal with large influxes of migrants and elaborated a national report. Contrary to the case of Sicily, Portugal is not facing large waves of migrants with consequent conditions of  emergency  and presents a good level of migrants’ integration into the country. In this scenario, the WHO and ICMHD team led by Dr Santino Severoni has conducted along with the Portuguese Ministry of Health visits to several stakeholders’ facilities as the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI), the Foreign and Border Service (SEF), the International Organization for Migration, the Portuguese Council for the Refugees, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Doctors of the World, the Maritime Operational Centre and the National Civil Protection Authority. During these visits, WHO has identified good practices for improving the public health response to migration. At the same time, the team was able to test in Portugal the toolkit, recently developed by WHO in collaboration with different experts. This toolkit is used to assess local health systems’ capacity when facing massive migration.

After Portugal, Malta will be the next country to be assessed, where WHO will also analyze the country’s health response to migration. The final goal of these missions is to develop expertise and capacity as well as to identify potential gaps in the public health sector in order to establish national contingency plans and inter-country co-ordination on health and migration matters.