Kathmandu, October 11
Ministry of Health and International Organisation of Migration, the UN Migration Agency, held a half-day consultation meeting here today on draft National Migration Health Policy.
Migration continues to grow in Nepal and migrants and their families, who make an important economic and social contribution to the country’s development, face a range of health issues at home and abroad.
According to Department of Foreign Employment, over half of all Nepali households now have at least one migrant family member currently abroad or living in Nepal as a returnee. Nepal ranks 23rd among all remittance-receiving countries in the world. In terms of the contribution of remittances to GDP, it ranks third after Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic, read a press release issued by the IOM.
The new draft policy, which is in line with Nepal’s constitution, aims to address the health rights of Nepali migrants. The level of education and skills of Nepali migrants tends to be low and they are therefore prone to health-related risks throughout the migration cycle. Their health is also affected by the lack of linguistically or culturally appropriate health services in their countries of destination.
“We cannot achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 on universal health coverage unless the health needs of migrants and refugees are met. The access of refugees and migrants to quality health services is of paramount importance to rights-based health systems, global health security and to public efforts aimed at reducing health inequities,” said IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Paul Norton. He added that this policy would provide an opportunity to promote a more coherent and integrated approach to health, beyond the treatment of specific diseases for all populations, including migrants, irrespective of their legal and migratory status.
The policy will be based on principles that recognise the health rights of citizens; the right to health-related information at both pre-departure and employment at destination stages; easy access to health services, accountability of health services providers; and regulated and monitored health assessment services. It will aim to reduce health vulnerabilities of migrant workers in all stages of the migration cycle and also protect the health of host communities from public health threats related to migration.
Dr Shrikrishna Giri, chief of Policy, Planning and International Co-operation Division of MoH, said, “Migrants are contributing a lot in the economy of Nepal and their health is very important for us. The recent constitution of Nepal envisions health as one of the fundamental rights and aims to improve access to free primary health services to all the citizens of the country, including migrants.”
According to him, addressing the health needs of migrants is essential to achieve SDG 3.8 on Universal Health Coverage. Thus, this policy is developed to promote the health of migrants and address the health related issues and challenges faced by the migrants during the migration process.
The meeting was attended by government officials, UN agencies, development partners, NGOs, academia, the private sector and media. The Ministry of Health will incorporate feedback from the consultation and initiate a process for endorsement of the policy. Based on the policy, related action plans will be developed and implemented.
The National Migration Health Policy is part of a project: “Strengthening Government Capacity in the Development and Implementation of a National Strategic Action Plan on Migration and Health in Nepal,” implemented by IOM in collaboration with the MoH.
A version of this article appears in print on October 12, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.