Climate Change, Migration and Health: Strengthening Evidence to Leave No One Behind
12 Nov 2022, 11:30am
WHO, IOM, IFRC, UHC2030 CSEM, WACI Health
COP27 Health Pavilion
The interaction between climate change, migration and health is complex and has been a growing area of concern globally; the urgency of the need to address these was highlighted at COP26. The World Report on the Health of Refugees and Migrants outlines the risk multiplier effect of climate change, including directly through acute hazards, as well as indirectly through changes to climate, air pollution, and impacts on cultures and societies.
Climate change remains one of the most imminent risks to the health and wellbeing of people across the world, taking a serious toll on both physical and mental health. The number of climate- and weather-related disasters has been increasing since the 1960s, and has risen almost 35 per cent since the 1990s, according to World Disasters Report 2020. Current conservative WHO projections estimate that climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, from climate-linked communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Displacement and migration in the context of climate change are increasingly recognized. Climate change hits the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, widening inequalities and creating new vulnerabilities through its impacts on health and WASH, nutrition, air quality, livelihoods, labour productivity and income, and displacement amongst others. The number of people migrating because of the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on their livelihoods, daily lives and health, is expected to rise, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia (World Bank, 2021).
The linkage between migration and health is also well-defined and migration is one of the determinants of health. As in many other crises, migrants often have additional health needs which depend on their underlying health and nutrition status, risks and hazards they are exposed in their environment, and access to services. They may be particularly vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on health, due to a lack of access to health care and social services, poor working and living conditions, or limited access to rights and level of inclusion in host communities.
Displaced populations often face limited access to health care, especially when the health systems in the host communities have limited capacities. The need to work towards more equitable, accessible and affordable health services, in line with universal health coverage principles, is widely demonstrated though the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, placing a strain on health systems, widening inequalities and amplifying risks to human health. Health systems face increasing challenges as both vulnerabilities and the population at risk are constantly evolving and expanding in all regions of the world. More than ever, robust and migrant-inclusive health systems, as acknowledged in the Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees (United Nations General Assembly, 2018) and through Sustainable Development Goal 3 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” (United Nations, 2015), are needed.
Despite knowledge of the interlinkage between climate change, migration and health, quality health information, research and data pertaining to this topic are scarce, and therefore not widely applied in the design and implementation of interventions and policies. To address this, the WHO Health and Migration Programme (PHM) has launched a call for applications of interest to address this from academic experts in the field of health and migration. It is also essential to adopt a gender lens, as gender will affect the impact climate change may have on an individual’s health and well-being. Mobilizing communities, strengthening health information systems, and ensuring public health and health system response are inclusive of vulnerable communities, migrants and refugees is the only way to ensure not only quality health information for evidence-based decision making but also inclusive and effective policy responses which meet the needs of these populations. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) will not be achieved unless we place communities at the forefront of every action, promoting equity and inclusivity, and ensuring that no one is left behind.
- Create an opportunity for key stakeholders to discuss the need for increased community engagement and strengthened data collection and research for evidence-based policymaking.
- Present key findings from existing case studies that have started to explore and unpick the climate change, migration and health nexus in different regions, following a gender-sensitive approach and promoting the inclusion of community and civil society voices.
- Build on relevant discussions held at the COP26, as well as the outcomes of the South-South Symposium on Climate Change, Migration and Health, to be organized by IOM and held in October 2022 in Morocco.
- Discuss the existing barriers of vulnerable communities, refugees and migrants to accessing health services. Identify the main challenges and opportunities for action in adaptation and mitigation efforts; sharing experiences, lessons learned, and good practices; and fostering multi-sectoral and intergovernmental collaborations and linkages between academia, civil society, policymakers and practitioners, among others.
- Renew and strengthen the commitment and engagement from all relevant actors to work together on the topic.
- Agree the need for increased community engagement and strengthened data collection and research for evidence-based policymaking, and agree priorities for research agenda.
- Kirsten Hagon, Senior Analyst, IFRC Humanitarian Policy, Climate Change, Policy and Diplomacy Unit
- Masako Ueda, Regional Migration, Environment, and Climate Change (MECC) Specialist at IOM Regional Office for Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
- Hon. Stephen Mule, MP Matungulu Constituency and Chair of the African Parliamentary TB caucus
- Dr. Maria Guevara, International Medical Secretary (IMS), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/ Doctors Without Borders
- Viengakhone Souriyo, Executive Director, Community Health and Inclusion Association (CHIAs), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (online)
- Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Dean, UCL Faculty of Population Health Sciences and Chair of Lancet Migration: global collaboration to advance migration health (online)
- Prisca Chisala, Director of Programmes and Development, Malawi Red Cross Society
- Dr Ali Ardalan, MD, PhD, Regional Adviser at WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (online)