16 September 2013

Migration, Disease and Development

Amy Lieberman has a nice article in the World Policy Journal on the nexus of migration and the spread of disease. She reports from Nepal:
Yet the issue of health—access to education, services, treatment, and a quality of life that can prevent migrants from getting sick with a transmittable illness—remains largely absent from regional and international agreements and discussions on migration. It is unlikely to surface as a priority any time soon, international experts on health and migration say, given the predominant, though inaccurate, conviction that migrants bring disease to a new country rather than acquiring them there and returning home to spread the contagion. 
“We talk about global health care and everybody seems to agree on the principles, but when it comes to migrants, you see the sensitivity the issue raises. People say, ‘Oh, now we are talking about migrants’,” says Davide Mosca, the Geneva-based director of the International Organization for Migration’s Department of Migrant Health. “No one shares the responsibility. We talk about migration, but not about health. It’s too sensitive.” Indeed, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations body that should monitor and police this growing crisis, refuses even to discuss the issue publicly. 
Talk of migration often makes politicians balk, given the impact the typically unpopular policy issues may have on their political future. The public often fears migrants spread disease and pose excessive burdens on government-supported health care. “Because of this stigma, it is unpopular for politicians to stand for migrants’ rights, including health. There is a deliberate tendency to avoid any explicit promotion of inclusive policies and practices,” says Mosca. The alternative, and generally accepted model, is simply to exclude migrants from countries’ public health systems, or to restrict their access.
Read it here