Health is for all: addressing migrants and refugees during COVID-19 pandemic is mandatory
The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading worldwide and it is mandatory to include in the global response to the virus also migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people. This people are among the most vulnerable to the disease: they have a higher risk of discrimination and stigmatization during the epidemics. In addition they might have higher health-related risks and lower access to health services, due to barriers such as language difficulties and legal, administrative and financial troubles. Finally, many refugee camps are overcrowded and lack basic services such as food and clean water access. Caring for this people is not only mandatory as health is a universal human right, but also it will also ensure safety to all citizens by controlling the spread of the disease.
In the WHO European Region, international migrants represent approximately 10% of the population; among these 7% are refugees. WHO has recently released an interim guidance for refugee and migrant health in relation to COVID-19 in the WHO European Region, that will be updated as the epidemiological situation evolves. The main endorsement to the Member States is to ensure that health related messages reach everyone in the community, so strategic communication should be develop to reach all refugee and migrants that may have difficulties in receiving and understanding the information. Secondly it is important to assure that these people do not become scapegoats and be discriminated even more during the pandemic. It is responsibility of the Member States to ensure that all people have the same access to prevention, diagnostic and infection control measures, should include refugees and migrants in national strategies and plans during outbreaks.