WHO School on Refugee and Migrant Health to build on existing capacities for providing care

For further information, contact:

Cristiana Salvi
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Tel.: +45 45 33 68 37
Mobile: +45 29 63 42 18
Email: salvic@who.int

Press release

Palermo, Sicily, 24 September 2018

The hazardous journey many refugees and migrants make to get to Europe puts those who arrive at greater risk of health issues. This year, the journey is even more dangerous, making the efforts of WHO, governments and civil society organizations to address the health challenges of survivors even more important. To promote access to health services for refugees and migrants, and to support health systems in host countries in delivering that care, the WHO Regional Office for Europe is launching the second annual WHO School on Refugee and Migrant Health.

"There are many reasons people migrate, such as globalization, conflict, poverty, climate change, urbanization, inequality and to improve job prospects", says Dr Santino Severoni, Coordinator of the Regional Office's Migration and Health programme; "By any means, people will continue to come seeking a better life for their family and a safer place to live. Good health and well-being is an important part of that."

More deaths and casualties among refugees and migrants

Indeed, the number of casualties and deaths among refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea has increased rapidly. According to a recent report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this year 1095 people have died during the journey, which is one out of every 18 arrivals. In June the proportion reached one death for every seven arrivals.

Moreover, even after migrants have arrived, they often face an uphill struggle to stay in good health. The use of health services by refugees and migrants is often compromised by a lack of familiarity with process and entry points, financial and structural barriers to receiving care and discrimination by others in the system. If they do access health services, they may find it difficult to communicate symptoms or understand treatment instructions because of language barriers. Cultural constructs can compound the problem.

Twenty European countries learning from best practice

More than 80 participants from nearly 20 European countries as well as from North and South America, Africa and east Asia will attend the school. Almost 40 of the world’s leading experts in the field of refugee and migration health will serve as faculty.

"It is important to emphasize that the issue of migration should not be seen as a short-term crisis", says Severoni, "rather it is a complex, long-term global dynamic requiring structural adaptation of the national health systems of the receiving countries."

Throughout the week, school participants will get a first-hand look at some of the health challenges and will exchange experiences and best practices for addressing them, including:

  • health interventions at first reception;
  • access to broader health services such as immunization and childbirth; and
  • identification and treatment of specific disorders (e.g. chronic diseases, tuberculosis and mental health issues).

The WHO School for Refugee and Migrant Health continues through to Friday 28 September and includes a site visit to an arrival point for refugees and migrants for a simulation exercise and a visit to a reception centre for unaccompanied children and minors.

The School is delivered in collaboration with the International Organization on Migration (IOM), European Commission and the European Public Health Association (EUPHA).