Việt Nam and IOM support enhancing regional cooperation to improve health of migrants in ASEAN
The ASEAN region records the highest number of international migrants in Asia, following India and the People’s Republic of China.
An international workshop on migration and health for migrants in ASEAN was held in Hà Nội on Monday, both in-person and online, to enhance cooperation among member countries to improve the health and well-being of migrants.
More than 160 high-ranking officials, experts, and scholars from health sectors and non-health sectors took part in the workshop.
Việt Nam's Ministry of Health (MoH) organised the workshop in collaboration with the ASEAN member states, with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
At the conference, delegates called for enhancing comprehensive cooperation activities to improve access to healthcare services for migrants, especially cross-border migrants.
Deputy Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Liên Hương emphasised the importance of the workshop, stating: “The International Workshop on Migration and Health for migrants in ASEAN is an excellent opportunity for all ASEAN members to collectively assess the current situation and trends of migration in the region and the world, and its impacts on socio-economic development.
"We can share lessons learned, initiatives and policy recommendations to promote the health of migrants in ASEAN to strengthen cooperation between ASEAN member states as well as with our partners in migrant health.”
The ASEAN region has long been a significant hub of origin, transit, and destination countries for migrants and their families. Asia accounts for a substantial number of migrants (106 million), with more than 60 per cent of all international migrants residing in Asia (80 million).
The ASEAN region records the highest number of international migrants in Asia, following India and the People’s Republic of China. Over the past three decades, international migration rates within the ASEAN member states have witnessed a significant increase as people of diverse genders, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and ethnicities migrate due to various push and pull factors.
However, the burden of health issues within ASEAN remains complex, including infectious diseases, occupational health hazards and injuries, mental health challenges, non-communicable diseases (such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes), and maternal and child health problems. Infectious diseases like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), tuberculosis (TB), and malaria continue to be significant concerns for member states.
Some countries in the region are recorded as the countries with the highest prevalence of TB, HIV, and malaria. The Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, and Việt Nam are among the top 30 countries with the highest TB incidence globally.
Across ASEAN, much heterogeneity exists in health service delivery systems. Health expenditure varies from the highest in Cambodia to the lowest in Brunei. Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) remains a challenging goal, even for the citizens of the member states, and presents an even greater challenge for migrants.
Recent studies conducted by IOM in the region have highlighted the challenges faced by cross-border migrants in accessing healthcare, including language barriers, discrimination, financial constraints, lack of portable health insurance across borders and lack of official cross-border referral mechanisms for migrant patients.
They can be made even more vulnerable in pandemic situations due to inadequate access to needed health care and services, as shown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the workshop, IOM Chief of Mission Park Mihyung applauded the collaboration between IOM and the MoH.
She said: “In a world where an increasing number of people are on the move, regional collaborations and partnerships are crucial to enhance the health and well-being of migrants. Healthy migrants contribute to healthy communities.
“I am proud that IOM and ASEAN nations have taken a positive step toward advancing migrant health agenda in accordance with the goals of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM). GCM is the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement that prioritises health as a cross-cutting issue, with references to health and healthcare access in several objectives.
"By aligning the GCM with the SDGs and World Health Assembly Resolutions, we have a significant opportunity to promote the health of migrants, foster multi-sectoral partnerships, and develop data-driven policies in ASEAN.”
Migrants’ health is a top priority of the ASEAN Health Sector under the ASEAN Post 2015 Health Development Agenda, specifically, the ASEAN Health Cluster (AHC 3) on Strengthening Health Systems and Access to Care. The AHC 3’s programme aims to enhance health systems’ capacity and capability to seek to improve services for documented migrants, including migrant workers, especially women, and children.