Statement on Refugee Health - 67th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe

WONCA Europe has released a joint statement on Refugee Health for the 67th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (Session 5 (a): Roadmap to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, building on the Health 2020 policy framework). The statement was prepared in cooperation with the Council of Occupational Therapists for the European Countries, the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, and the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance. You may find the full text of the statement below the video and attached as PDF.

 

Refugee Health: Leaving No One Behind

The organizations supporting this statement welcome the roadmap to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular the second strategic direction – leaving no one behind.

The health and social inequalities among migrants and displaced people are well known, yet they are still staggering. A real humanitarian point-of-view and urgency in implementing actions are needed.

Existing policies must be revised to promote accessibility and appropriateness of the health care services for refugees, and eliminate exposure to social exclusion. Strategies must be put in place to guarantee access to safe drinking water, food, sanitation, hygiene, shelter and essential health services for refugees. Particular attention must be paid to the specific needs of the vulnerable groups of older people, those with disabilities and mental health problems, and patients needing palliative care – including those just arrived and living in refugee settlements for many years.

Even more urgently, we must protect the children for they did not choose the world they were brought into.

We reiterate our call on Member States to recommend, where practicable, the implementation of pre-departure medical examination, proper communication, coordination protocols and reporting for post-arrival follow-up to guarantee the safe travel and resettlement of the refugees without discrimination based on health status. To this end:

  1. we note the role of primary health care in assisting refugees, especially after their resettlement, by providing people-centered services which respond to their health needs;
  2. we urge Member States to consider specific preventive strategies for underage refugees and safeguard them from developing mental and physical disease in the future;
  3. we welcome information technology in advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda;
  4. we wish to highlight that strengthening health information systems, and prioritizing their harmonization and standardization in the European region can support better surveillance and coordination, and increase the appropriateness of health services.

Finally, we urge Member States to continuously evaluate their policies and strategies so that they reflect the evolving situation on the ground. We are willing to consult and cooperate with other stakeholders in designing and implementing the appropriate strategies to address the health needs and the social determinants of health of refugees.