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

Author/s: Montira Inkochasan, Deyer Gopinath, Estefanía Vicario, Aimee Lee, Patrick Duigan
Language: English
Publication Type: Scientific Report (Journal)(External)

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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.

WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health