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Migrants need to be included in national responses to Influenza A

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Contact: NEMO


Friday, May 1, 2009 - Switzerland - Governments need to include migrant communities in national response plans if measures to counter any possible pandemic of Influenza A (H1N1) are to be fully successful, says IOM.


Many governments had developed influenza and pandemic preparedness plans before the current outbreak which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), has so far resulted in 331 confirmed cases in 11 countries. However, the needs of migrant populations had often not been taken into consideration. These now need to be so and urgently, if a global public health crisis is to be averted.


Migrants cover a widely diverse range of people including also irregular migrants, asylumseekers, refugees, internally displaced people. The social exclusion or marginalization of some of these groups due to a lack of legal status and/or poverty often limits or prevents their access to health services. With the WHO alert raised to level 5 to indicate imminent pandemic, irregular migrants are especially vulnerable.


"The rapid spread of the H1N1 virus is testimony to the critical relation between human mobility and health. With migrants representing significant numbers within national populations and with the contagious nature of Influenza A which doesn’t discriminate between nationals and non-nationals, it is in the public health interest of every community to ensure all people have access to clear information, treatment and care," says Jacqueline Weekers, Senior Migration Health Policy Advisor at IOM.


"Efforts should also be made to allay fears of irregular migrants who fall sick that they may be deported or face other repercussions if they seek medical assistance," Weekers adds. "All barriers to access need to be removed in such a situation."


Health information should be made available in linguistically and culturally appropriate formats, particularly among the largest migrant groups and at relevant locations, such as places of worship and community centres, to reach migrants. Focus should also be put on strengthening the capacities of and within migrant communities to respond to a pandemic.


IOM fully supports WHO Director General Margaret Chan in her statement that the "international community should treat this as a window of opportunity ….. for global solidarity as we look for responses and solutions that benefit all countries, all of humanity. After all, it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic".


On its side, IOM is working in partnership with its 125 member states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector to address the pandemic preparedness needs of migrants.

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