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 Table of Contents  
PERSPECTIVE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 26-34

Access to health care for migrants in the Greater Mekong Subregion: policies and legal frameworks and their impact on malaria control in the context of malaria elimination


1 International Organization for Migration Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand
2 World Health Organization Country Office for Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand

Date of Web Publication4-Apr-2019

Correspondence Address:
Patrick Duigan
International Organization for Migration Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Thailand
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.255346

PMID: 30950427

Rights and Permissions
  Abstract 


The launch of the Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in December 2018 marked the first-ever United Nations global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. The global compact aims to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration, by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance. A key example of the intersection of the right to health and migration is seen in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) – comprising Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the People’s Republic of China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Thailand and Viet Nam. The GMS has a highly dynamic and complex pattern of fluctuating migration, and population mobility has been identified as an important concern in the GMS, since five of the six GMS countries are endemic for malaria. Based on the concept of universal health coverage, and as endorsed by the 61st World Health Assembly in 2008, migrants, independently of their legal status, should be included in national health schemes. This paper summarizes work done to understand and address the legal obstacles that migrants face in accessing health services in the GMS countries, and the impact that these obstacles have in relation to elimination of malaria and containment of artemisinin resistance. Despite efforts being made towards achieving universal health coverage in all the GMS countries, no country has current health and social protection regulations to ensure migrants’ access to health services, although in Thailand documented and undocumented migrants can opt for acquiring health insurance. Additionally, there is a lack of migrant-inclusive legislation in GMS countries, since barriers to accessing health services for migrants – such as language and/or socioeconomic factors – have been scarcely considered. Advocacy to promote legislative approaches that include migrants’ health needs has been made at global and regional levels, to overcome these barriers. Assistance is available to Member States for reviewing and adopting migrant-friendly policies and legal frameworks that promote rather than hinder migrants’ and mobile populations’ access to health services.

Keywords: access to health care, Greater Mekong Subregion, migrants, migration, malaria, universal health coverage


How to cite this article:
Inkochasan M, Gopinath D, Vicario E, Lee A, Duigan P. Access to health care for migrants in the Greater Mekong Subregion: policies and legal frameworks and their impact on malaria control in the context of malaria elimination. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health 2019;8:26-34

How to cite this URL:
Inkochasan M, Gopinath D, Vicario E, Lee A, Duigan P. Access to health care for migrants in the Greater Mekong Subregion: policies and legal frameworks and their impact on malaria control in the context of malaria elimination. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Apr 26];8:26-34. Available from: http://www.who-seajph.org/text.asp?2019/8/1/26/255346


  Background Top


The launch of the Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in December 2018 marked the first-ever United Nations global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions.[1] The global compact aims to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration, by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance. The compact underscores migrants’ right to health and delineates the policies and process through which states might make this a reality. The compact in turn reflects the central aim of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no one behind”.[2] Meeting many targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will positively impact the health of migrants, but Target 3.8 is perhaps the most direct: “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”.[3]

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) has experienced consistent economic development over the last decade, and thus is a key example of the intersection of the right to health and migration. Multilateral agreements, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Trade Agreements or the GMS Economic Cooperation Program,[4] have contributed to improved economic collaboration among GMS countries – Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the People’s Republic of China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Thailand and Viet Nam – through improvements in infrastructure and promotion of trade and investment.[5] This development has brought a marked overall increase in human mobility within the region, which varies among the countries.[6] Thailand is by far the main receiving country in the region, hosting between three and four million migrants from other GMS countries.[7]

Economic growth in the region has been promoted by the development of a transport network linking economic hubs creating active trade and labour markets in cities along economic corridors that integrate the regional economy.[4],[7] As a result, cross-border mobility in the GMS is highly dynamic and complex, with migration fluctuating on a daily or weekly basis in the border towns of the economic corridors.[7] Either seasonal or long-term, labour migration constitutes the main type of migration in the GMS.[8] Irregular migration (movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving countries) remains widely spread throughout the region, and is the reason why it is difficult to obtain reliable migration data for the GMS. Recent estimates report over 5 million international migrants within the region, including 4.9 million in Thailand (of which 3.9 million are migrant workers from Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam).[7]

Human mobility has been described as a risk factor for control and elimination of malaria.[9],[10],[11] Migration from areas of high transmission can cause the reintroduction of malaria in low-malaria or malaria-free areas.[9],[12],[13],[14],[15] On the other hand, migrants from non-endemic areas have little immunity to malaria,[16] showing an increased risk of developing high parasitaemia and clinical malaria and of death.[9] Also, studies have shown that migrants can have a higher prevalence of malaria than the resident population in certain situations,[11],[16] which could be related to the higher exposure to areas that are endemic for malaria as a result of their work (forest, agricultural); their lack of knowledge about the disease in terms of transmission and prevention;[16],[18] and their lack of knowledge about the location of health services and their right to access them.[16],[18],[19]

Five of the six GMS countries are endemic for malaria. Even though the region is marked by population mobility, the incidence of malaria has reduced in the past two decades.[20],[21],[22] However, despite the efforts made, the region still faces a concerning malaria situation. The emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant malaria parasites in the GMS represents a threat to efforts for prevention, control and elimination of malaria.[23] In this context, population mobility has been identified as an important concern in the GMS, especially along national borders where the burden of malaria is higher and in locations where antimalarial multidrug resistance, including artemisinin resistance, has been detected or suspected.[13],[23]

Thus, for the aim of achieving elimination of malaria, human mobility and antimalarial multidrug resistance, including artemisinin resistance, remain issues of key concern in the GMS. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030[9] and the Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion[12] have recognized the need for targeting migrants and mobile populations to achieve this goal. Both documents advocate providing migrants with access to health services, including access to protection measures, early diagnosis and treatment. The WHO Emergency response to artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong subregion: regional framework for action 2013–2015, launched in 2013 to contain the spread of the resistance, advocates expanding the provision of health services to include migrants.[24]

In 2008, the World Health Assembly recognized the need to address the health of migrants in its Resolution 61.17,[17] which calls governments to take action on promoting equal access to health care for migrants and include them in national and regional health strategies. In 2017, the World Health Assembly ratified a further Resolution 70.15,[25] on promoting the health of refugees and migrants and reaffirming the health-related commitments for refugees and migrants in the development of the Global compact on refugees[26] and the Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.[1]

One of the four key themes of the Operational Framework on Migrant Health developed at the first Global Consultation on Migrant Health,[27] and based on the World Health Assembly Resolution 61.17,[17] is to assess and address policy and legal frameworks related to migrant health (see [Box 1]). Specifically, this involves adopting relevant international standards on the protection of migrants and respect for rights to health in national law and practice; implementing national health policies that promote equal access to health services for migrants; and extending social protections in health and improving social security for all migrants.




  Policies and frameworks on migrants’ access to health services and elimination of malaria Top


In order to provide an evidence base and guidance for malaria programme managers at national level in addressing the policy and legal framework elements of migrants’ access to malaria services, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and WHO partnered to collaborate on a review of policies and legal frameworks in five GMS countries (Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam), to provide recommendations for malaria programme managers on the technical implementation and policy implications of addressing malaria. The objective was to contribute to understanding and addressing the legal obstacles that migrants face in accessing health services and the impact that these obstacles have for elimination of malaria and containment of artemisinin resistance in the region. This paper describes key results and findings from the review and highlights the collaborative process that was undertaken to conduct the review and subsequent report publication.

Approach

The review was undertaken, and the subsequent report produced, through a collaboration between IOM country offices, IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the WHO Country Office for Thailand (Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance [ERAR]-GMS). The review was undertaken in 2015, with subsequent analysis, review and checking with respective ministry of health counterparts before being completed in 2016, and published by WHO in 2017.[28] It is important to note that, as the data collection and review were undertaken in 2015, the review describes the laws and policies in place at that time.

The methods used included (i) reviews of existing documentation, electronic databases and publications, detailing how Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam have addressed the health of inbound, outbound and internal migrants and responded to the global and regional migration and/or health frameworks, such as ASEAN resolutions, memoranda of understanding and other agreements; and (ii) supplementary informal discussions with key actors, such as the International Relations Division of the Ministry of Health and other ministries of Myanmar and Cambodia, and the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, as well as other experts in the field of malaria in Thailand.

Each country review was conducted by in-country consultants or IOM country offices and further reviewed by the IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. A regional consultant was responsible for gathering applicable regional data and integrating all country reports. Technical review of the report was conducted by the Migration Health Unit of the IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, with inputs from the WHO ERAR focal person for malaria and border health, based at the WHO Country Office for Thailand.

The review process also considered a range of international and regional instruments and their application in the context of malaria elimination and artemisinin resistance; these instruments covered areas including universal health coverage, conventions on occupational health and safety, the International Health Regulations (2005),[29] World Health Assembly resolutions, and health and human rights.

Furthermore, the review identified gaps and opportunities affecting the implementation of health policies and laws. By use of available data, reports, studies and publications to identify the trends in migration within and between countries, the review considered their implications not only for malaria but also for advancement of the right to health for all in the GMS. Selected illustrative findings are presented next.

Labour laws enabling migrant workers’ access to health care

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions (No. 97, 143 and 155),[30],[31],[32] countries hosting migrant workers should have labour and social laws that protect their rights, especially concerning working conditions and occupational health and safety. Also, migrant workers should be provided with access to health services, including access to emergency care. Both medical care and safety and health protection should be equal to that provided to nationals.

Thailand

Thailand’s Workmen’s Compensation Act[33] establishes rights for workers to access medical treatment in the event of work-related injury or illness; the associated medical expenses must be covered by employers, who are also obliged to compensate workers for lost income. Employers can use the Workmen’s Compensation Fund (to which they have the duty to pay contributions) to cover all these costs. However, although migrant workers have the same rights as Thai nationals, this Act only applies to workplaces with 10 or more employees.

Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic also afford documented migrants’ protection under their labour laws. In Cambodia, the Labour Law, which covers all workers regardless of their nationality, except domestic or household servants, states that employers “must provide the primary healthcare for their workers” (art. 238).[34] Occupational illnesses and work-related accidents must also be covered by employers, who should provide their workers with medical assistance, including medical treatment and hospitalization, and compensation if temporary incapacitation or permanent disability occurs. Additionally, employers are required to cover expenses related to chemical prophylaxis or vaccination against epidemics.

In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Labour Law, which applies to all employees, including foreigners, includes a specific section on migrant labour that grants legal protection to foreign workers according to the laws of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (art. 69).[35] In the case of occupational diseases and/or work-related accidents, employers must take responsibility for treatment and rehabilitation costs.

Viet Nam and Myanmar

Viet Nam and Myanmar have few labour regulations ensuring health rights for migrant workers. Viet Nam has minimum health and safety regulations contained in the Law on Vietnamese Guest Workers[36] and in Decree No. 44/2013/ND-CP.[37] The Decree states the responsibility for participation in compulsory medical, social and unemployment insurance of employers and employees with labour contracts. The regulation also provides for minimum responsibilities of employers in the event of employees suffering occupational accidents or illnesses. These obligations consist of payment of first-aid expenses, full salary for the duration of treatment and compensation.

Myanmar’s labour laws are over 60 years old and are limited in scope, not providing health rights for migrant workers. The Department of Labour is currently leading an internal process of drafting laws in this area. However, as the main sending country in the GMS, protection to Myanmar citizens working abroad has been provided for in the Law of Overseas Employment, which aims to ensure that overseas workers have access to medical treatment free of charge in cases of work-related injury or illness.[38]

Health and social protection laws promoting access to health services for migrants: universal health coverage and non-occupational health schemes

Based on the principles of universal health coverage – ensuring that all people obtain the health services of adequate quality that they need without risk of financial ruin or impoverishment – and as stated in World Health Assembly Resolution 61.17,[17] migrants, independently of their legal status, should be included in national health schemes. Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam lag far behind Thailand regarding universal health coverage.

Thailand

When analysing how far GMS countries have gone towards achieving universal health coverage, and thus including migrants in their health systems, it was found that Thailand is the only GMS country that has established a universal health-care scheme. The scheme was introduced in 2002 after promulgation of the National Health Security Act[39] that sets the legal basis for the country’s Universal Coverage Scheme.[40] Data from 2008 estimated that the scheme covers 75% of Thai citizens.[41] The remaining Thai population is covered by the Social Security Scheme, covering private sector workers (7%), or by the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme, covering civil servants (16%).[42] In 2001, in order to provide health coverage to documented migrant workers, Thailand established a Migrant Health Insurance Scheme that includes services for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Payment of fees for annual membership for a compulsory annual medical examination is required to benefit from the scheme (1600 baht and 500 baht, respectively, in 2018).[7] This scheme allows undocumented migrants to purchase health insurance membership. With this system, Thailand is a pioneer in providing access to health services for migrants; however, the access is restricted to the health facility where migrants were first registered. Regular migrant workers employed in the formal sector are able to join the Social Security Scheme with the same entitlements as Thai citizens, where employers and workers each contribute 5% of the worker’s salary, and the government contributes an amount equivalent to 2.75%.[7] As of November 2018, it was reported that in Thailand approximately 64% of documented migrant workers from GMS countries who were eligible for health insurance coverage were enrolled. This proportion falls to 51% if all eligible migrants (documented and undocumented) are considered.[7]

Cambodia

In Cambodia, health-care services are mainly provided by the private sector.[43],[44] With the aim of increasing the use of public health services and promoting better access for the poor, health equity funds have been implemented across the country since 2000. These funds are run by a third party, normally a local nongovernmental organization, which operates with selected public health facilities. The government also has its own subsidy scheme, which is used to reimburse public health facilities for exempted user fees. A social security system for private sector workers is outlined in the Law on Social Security Schemes for persons defined by the provisions of the Labour Law.[45] With compulsory contributions from employers, the National Security Fund ensures that employees can benefit from a pension scheme, health insurance scheme and employment injury insurance. The Law applies to all workers regardless of nationality. The draft of a Social Health Insurance Master Plan, based on the Strategic Framework for Health Financing 2008–2015, aims to further develop and expand universal coverage of social services – aimed at Cambodian nationals only – and group the existing schemes under a national social health protection system.[46] Although efforts have been made to improve access to health services for poor and disadvantaged groups (National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable), migrants are not included under this strategy.[47]

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Lao People’s Democratic Republic currently has four social protection schemes moving towards achievement of universal health coverage: a mandatory Civil Servants’ Scheme, a Social Security Office Scheme, a voluntary community-based health insurance and a Health Equity Fund (fund for the poor). However, as of 2012, only 18% of the Lao population was covered by these schemes. Workers and their dependents are provided with health coverage under the social security office scheme; however, no specific mention is made of migrant workers. Given the provisions of the Labour Law,[35] which suggest that documented migrant workers are afforded protection and access to health care, it could be inferred that documented migrant workers are entitled to health services under the Social Security Office Scheme. Lao People’s Democratic Republic lacks health-care laws in which migrants have been specifically considered; the country’s Law on Health Care 2014)[48] states that all citizens are entitled to receive health care when ill; however, no reference is made to migrants.

Myanmar and Viet Nam

In Myanmar and Viet Nam, commitment has been made to attain universal health coverage by 2030.[49],[50] Myanmar’s National Health Plan 2011–2016 recognizes the importance of migration with respect to communicable diseases and health status in border areas.[51] While migrants have been mentioned in initial planning meetings, there are no formal legislative or legal policy frameworks to ensure the inclusion of migrants in activities related to universal health coverage.[52] In 2008, the Government of Viet Nam promulgated the Law on Health Insurance,[53] to expand its national Social Health Insurance programme, and thus facilitate access to health services to, eventually, the entire population.[54] Under this Law, migrant workers can participate in the national health insurance. However, access to health services for migrants is restricted by the Law on Residence,[55] which links household registration status with the right to health and social services. Migrants typically possess temporary registration status and, under this type of registration, they cannot access certain health and social services, or they can access them only where they are permanently registered.

Malaria frameworks promoting access to health services for migrants

Two main malaria frameworks are in place regarding malaria control in the GMS: the Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion: 2015–2030[12] and the Emergency response to artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong subregion: regional framework for action 2013–2015.[24] Both frameworks emphasize that provision of services for mobile and migrant populations is essential. The frameworks were supported by a series of practical guides, from the Mekong Malaria Elimination programme, on assisting countries to identify priorities surrounding population mobility and take action to develop proactive initiatives to respond to emerging population mobility and malaria trends in the region.[56]

The five GMS countries reviewed have adopted national strategies for malaria elimination in line with the frameworks; all of them recognize migrants as a vulnerable group.

Cambodia

Notably, Cambodia has the best initiative to target migrants in the context of malaria elimination. In addition to its National Strategic Plan for Elimination of Malaria,[57] it has designed the Strategy to Address Migrant and Mobile Populations for Malaria Elimination in Cambodia (2013).[58] The document analyses migrants’ malaria vulnerability and describes the associated risks according to movement patterns and work type. Relevant proposed interventions targeting migrants are described, including implementation of prevention measures such as health education through mass media, videos in buses and taxis, or information, education and communication materials; distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets; early diagnosis and treatment; and increased surveillance and research to track malaria and migration hotspots.

Myanmar and Thailand

In their national malaria strategies, both Myanmar and Thailand mention the need to provide clinical services for malaria for migrants. In Myanmar, migrants are recognized in the National Strategic Plan for Malaria Prevention and Control 2010–2016 as a vulnerable group,[59] and are explicitly referenced in its section on “Directions for malaria prevention”. The plan includes action points targeting migrants, such as establishing malaria clinics in strategic and hard-to-reach areas with large numbers of migrant workers, and providing specific information, education and communication materials for migrants. In its national strategy, Thailand has also acknowledged migrants as a target population for malaria control.[59] The strategy calls for specific programmes to control malaria in migrants and considers this a key group for containment of the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites. Decreasing the annual parasite incidence in migrants is one of the targets of the strategy. To that end, cross-border screening and treatment of migrant workers should be provided.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The Lao National Strategy for Malaria Control and Pre-elimination 2011–2015 also recognizes migrants, especially temporary and seasonal workers, as a key risk group for malaria. Development of specific information, education and communication, such as roadside bill-boards targeting migrant workers, and mass media campaigns is mentioned in the objectives of the strategy.[60]

Viet Nam

Viet Nam’s national strategy for malaria control suggests increasing research activities on vector-control measures for migrant workers but does not specifically recognize migrants as a vulnerable group.[61] Nevertheless, Viet Nam’s Action Plan to Prevent Artemisinin Resistance Malaria for the period of 2015–2017 targets seasonal workers, specifically cashew and cassava farm labourers, as a risk group. The plan provides for ensuring rapid diagnosis and malaria treatment for migrants.[62]


  Strategies and cooperation: ensuring inclusion of migrants Top


At the time the review was undertaken, all GMS countries are committed to, among others, the WHO Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030,[9] and the WHO Strategy for malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion (2015–2030),[11] launched in May 2015. In May 2007, the countries signed memoranda of understanding to continue indefinitely with the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance project, through which the countries have been working together since 2001 to progressively build local capacity, share information and cooperate in outbreak response and pandemic preparedness.[63] All are signatories to the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection.[64] All have also entered into bilateral agreements with one another regarding migration or trafficking in persons, which include cooperation on health matters, such as focal points for health services at border crossings; health-care assistance; health insurance; occupational health and safety; and even a trilateral cooperation for health between Myanmar, Thailand and the United States Cross-Border Partnership, which provides a platform for cities along the border to synchronize malaria-control activities.[65]

As of 2015, all GMS countries have adopted national strategies for the elimination of malaria, in line with the WHO Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030[9] and the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA68.2 for 2016–2030, which specifically recognize migrants and mobile populations as a vulnerable group.[66] In 2017, WHO published A framework for malaria elimination,[67] providing malaria-endemic countries with further guidance for national strategic plans for malaria elimination, specifically on the tools, activities and dynamic strategies required to achieve interruption of transmission and to prevent re-establishment of malaria. In November 2017, recognizing the need for high-level political commitment, the minsters of health of all Member States in the WHO South-East Asia Region made a commitment towards a malaria-free region by 2030, through signing the Ministerial declaration on accelerating and sustaining malaria elimination in the South-East Asia Region,[68] with a Regional Action Plan 2017–2030,[69] along with a framework for a South-Asia subregional cross-border collaboration network to eliminate malaria.[63] A Ministerial call for action to eliminate malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion before 2030 was also adopted by GMS countries at a high-level meeting in December 2017.[70]

Although migrant workers are specifically mentioned in some of the policy documents and legal frameworks reviewed, it remains unclear whether the term “migrant” refers to international or internal migrants or both. Inconsistent use of the term has been observed across the GMS countries, together with a lack of specific health legislation directly addressing inbound migrants. This lack of specificity leaves much room for subjective interpretation, which may result in inconsistent legal protection for migrants in the region. The use of the term “migrant and mobile populations” appears to have been interpreted in national malaria strategies as exclusively including internal migrants or citizens, but specific reference to inbound migrants is not made.

Findings show that all GMS countries except Myanmar have minimum occupational health and safety regulations. However, malaria has not been specifically considered as an occupational health concern in any of the existing regulations, even though, owing to the nature of the work, some workers such as those involved in agricultural or forest activities, are considerably exposed to the parasite. It could be argued that malaria should fall under these regulations in cases where there is a foreseeable risk of contracting malaria in a work setting. Provision of malaria prophylaxis and treatment medications for at-risk workers could be included in occupational health and safety policies in the same way that the Cambodia Labour Law requires employers to cover expenses related to chemical prophylaxis or vaccination against epidemics.[34] Also, other protective measures for malaria, such as insecticide treatment kits, long-lasting insecticidal nets, or personal protective equipment could be then provided and covered by employers if stipulated by labour laws.

Although efforts are being made towards achieving universal health coverage in the GMS countries, migrants are not included in health financing schemes, apart from in Thailand, and existing laws and policy documents do not refer to migrants in their roadmaps towards universal health coverage. Current regulations for health and social protection do not ensure migrants’ access to health services, except in Thailand, where documented and undocumented migrants can opt for acquiring health insurance. Additionally, there is a lack of migrant-inclusive legislation in GMS countries, since barriers to accessing health services for migrants – such as language and/or socioeconomic factors – have been scarcely considered. Advocacy to promote legislative approaches that include migrants’ health needs have been made at global and regional levels,[27] to overcome these barriers.

Although migrants have been mentioned and frequently identified as a vulnerable group in national strategies for malaria in the GMS, not all the strategies address migrants similarly. While interventions such as information, education and communication campaigns and early diagnosis and treatment for migrants have been acknowledged in all strategies, malaria surveillance and mapping of migrants have not always been considered. The report based on this review provides detailed short- and long-term recommendations for internal, inbound and outbound migrants.[28]


  Conclusion Top


While there is now uniform recognition of the need to include migrants and mobile populations in elimination and control of malaria in GMS countries, there remain discrepancies in the adoption and implementation of legal and policy frameworks that promote migrants’ and mobile populations’ access to health and malaria services in the GMS. All GMS countries have adopted national malaria strategies in line with the current WHO Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030,[9] and the WHO publication A framework for malaria elimination;[67] however, there remain multiple legal and policy-level barriers for migrants in accessing health and malaria services across the GMS.

In line with current efforts at global, regional and national levels to improve the health of migrants, including via the Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration,[1] the WHO Global action plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants and refugees,[71] drafted in preparation for the 72nd World Health Assembly in 2019, and other relevant initiatives, IOM and WHO stand ready to continue to collaborate and assist Member States in reviewing and adopting migrant-friendly policies and legal frameworks that promote rather than hinder migrants’ and mobile populations’ access to health services. This successful collaboration between IOM, WHO and Member States to review international, regional and national policies and legal frameworks for GMS countries can serve as an example and template for other countries and for other programmes where the health of migrants is critical to achieving national, regional and global health goals.

Acknowledgements: We thank the technical experts from the IOM, WHO and the relevant ministries of health within GMS whose collaborative efforts made the work discussed in this paper possible.

Source of support: None.

Conflict of interest: None declared.

Authorship: All authors contributed equally to this paper.

 
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