Statement on Health of Refugees and Migrants

For over 60 years, FIGO has collaborated with the world's top health bodies to work towards the improvement of women's health globally.

FIGO is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), and attending the 144th WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 24 - 30th January, 2019.

This week we shared our statement on the Director-General's report on the Draft global action plan, 2019–2023 promoting the health of refugees and migrants:

FIGO is excited to see that promoting the health of refugees and migrants has reached the forefront of WHO planning and acknowledges that the new Draft Global Action Plan, 2019 – 2023 for Promoting the health of refugees and migrants to be an important step.

Migrants and refugees are people like us who, under drastic natural or human-made disasters, have suffered grave losses: beloved ones, life-time possessions, and family networks. Livelihoods are interrupted - and more so their health care.

FIGO is pleased to see that WHO conducted a call for contributions on evidence-based information, country practices, experiences and lessons learned in meeting the health needs of refugees and migrants. This information is vital to forming a cohesive plan to address the issues, to prevent inequities and inefficiencies, and address public health considerations.

The needs of women are huge. In FIGO’s experience, health often takes a lower priority after food and protection in these situations. Medications run out, emergency visits are not available, and attending to pregnancy and childcare simply does not happen. This is a time when most health indicators suffer, diseases worsen, and needs escalate.

We agree with the Director-General that the public health considerations of refugees and migrants cannot be separated from the host population but FIGO calls on WHO to increase your focus on the health and wellbeing of women, including the following areas:

  • Maternal health, antenatal care and hospital-based deliveries must be overseen by a skilled-birth attendant for all pregnant refugees and migrants.
  • The detrimental consequences of child-brides and adolescent pregnancy often faced by young girls of refugee families. Protecting female children from sexual exploitation.
  • Fertility rates rise under conflicts and continue to grow due to gaps and unmet need for modern contraceptives, as well as cultural restriction on its use.
  • Reproductive morbidity and cancer screening, as well as midlife needs, must be provided in primary health care for refugees at a wider scale.
  • Violence and mental health are not receiving the attention needed with reports showing that women refugees felt concerned about harassment, abuse, rape, and do not feel safe in their spaces.

FIGO’s vision is a world where all women achieve the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health. This must hold true wherever women live - and in a world of increasing migration, including in the healthcare community itself - wherever they are forced to go.

With our 132 member countries, FIGO is in a unique position to collaborate with WHO, and our partners, to promote continuity and quality of care, while developing, reinforcing and implementing occupational health and safety measures and to advocate mainstreaming refugee and migrant health in global, regional and country agendas.

We are available to work with you to enhance the capacity to tackle the social determinants of health and accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including Universal Health Coverage.