The complex relationship between migration and health remains poorly understood in South and South-West Asia. This chapter has demonstrated that several of these relationships are of fundamental importance to the eradication of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the subregion. Mobility continues to increase in South and South-West Asia, making it even more essential that its impact on health is better understood. Monitoring variables related to migrant health is a critical aspect of improving both the health status and utilization of health services by migrants (WHO 2010). Only on the basis of such knowledge Governments can develop sound policies that can maximize not only the benefits of migration but also minimize its costs.
To date, several regional and global initiatives have been implemented that promote understanding, partnerships, programming and advocacy for policies addressing the health of migrants and mobile populations, including their host societies and left-behind families and communities. For South and South-West Asia, investments have been made in fostering partnerships, networks and multi-country frameworks through regional dialogues, meetings and ministerial consultations. Prime examples among them are the Regional Dialogue on the Health Challenges of Asian Migrant Workers, the Global Forum on Migration and Development, and the Colombo Process. Although the focus of these initiatives has largely been within the context of labour migration and economic development, they have provided an important platform to discuss the health challenges of migrant workers.
Governments may utilize such approaches as potential venues to extend the discussion on migration health to other forms of migration such as irregular and forced migration. These approaches could also serve as an effective means to promote and discuss with donors the inclusion of migrant health needs in existing regional and global funding mechanisms.
With the existing mechanisms in place, the challenge now lies in implementing these recommendations, priorities, and actions at the country level. Governments, in partnership with other stakeholders, must consider their national migration and health context and take the lead in translating these recommendations into policies and legal frameworks that spur the development of migrant-sensitive health systems. Ensuring the continuity and quality of care received by migrants throughout the migration cycle is a recognized priority in South and South-West Asia. Another area of importance in the subregion is building capacity of the health and relevant non-health service sector to address the health and social issues associated with migration.
Some Governments have moved forward on this issue through the following actions:
- establishing a focal point to facilitate inter-ministerial and inter-agency coordination;
- setting standards and frameworks for development, management, monitoring and delivery of migrant-sensitive and migrant-inclusive services; and
- sensitizing relevant service providers and stakeholders.
With careful evaluation, these initiatives could provide models for other countries to replicate or to adapt in their context. Given the varying forms of migration and its importance to the present situation in South and South-West Asia, approaches to migration health also need to further promote the rights of migrants and recognize the public health principles of disease transmission, its prevention, mitigation and where possible, eradication.