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The editors of PLOS Medicine together with Guest Editors Paul Spiegel, Kolitha Wickramage, and Terry McGovern, announce a forthcoming special issue devoted to refugee and migrant health. Research submissions are now being invited.

Originally posted:

At the 72nd World Health Assembly held during May 20–28 of this year in Geneva, Switzerland, a very welcome global action plan was agreed which seeks to establish a “framework of priorities and guiding principles … to promote the health of refugees and migrants”. The WHO document also notes that the number of forcibly displaced people has reached its highest ever level, at an estimated 68.5 million individuals, including 25.4 million refugees—the majority hosted in low- and middle-income countries. Further, approximately 10 million stateless people lack basic human rights to freedom of movement, education and health care. Scattered across the planet, such enormous numbers of people dwarf the individual populations of many countries yet, all too often, no government or international agency can offer adequate protection or health provision to this virtual state of refugees and migrants.

There is substantial documentation of the numerous and grave health threats faced by migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Migrant workers who have relocated internationally are at risk of occupational injuries and ill health, for instance. Migrants and refugees can be vulnerable to serious outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as cholera, in emergency settings. In a transit or destination country, people could be affected by diseases prevalent in their country of origin, such as tuberculosis, and by non-communicable diseases, for example, that reflect the situation in countries of transit or destination. Mental ill-health, including post-traumatic stress disorder in relevant groups of people, is a particular concern for migrants and refugees and their health providers. In many settings, barriers of language, culture or law prevent migrants from accessing essential services.

Seeking to raise awareness of the health threats faced by migrants and refugees and to promote research, service and policy innovation in this area, the editors of PLOS Medicine are planning a Special Issue on the topic to be published in March 2020. Guest Editors are Dr. Paul Spiegel, Director of the Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins, University, Dr. Kolitha Wickramage, the Global Health Research and Epidemiology Coordinator at the UN Migration Agency, and Ms. Terry McGovern, the Harriet and Robert H. Heilbrunn Professor and Chair Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

The Guest Editors and PLOS Medicine editors are particularly interested in receiving research submissions in the following areas:

  • Health of migrants and refugees in low-, middle- and high-income countries, including that of internally displaced persons and economic migrants. Epidemiology of health challenges, including nutrition, trauma, mental health and other non-communicable diseases, and communicable diseases arising in affected populations’ varied contexts.
  • Planning and provision of health services for migrants and refugees in diverse settings—special provisions needed for pediatric, maternal and women’s health in such settings, where risks of sexual and other violence and trafficking are increased; planning for and prevention of infectious disease outbreaks; integration of services with national systems; and relevant health information systems to inform such services.
  • Health systems including infrastructure, workforce and clinical practice in settled and other settings such as refugee camps. Issues of health worker training and maintaining care quality.
  • Financing mechanisms and funding for migrant and refugee health in low-, middle- and high-income countries. Implications for the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Leadership and governance of humanitarian programs. Coordination structures, accountability, autonomy and community involvement.
  • Human rights, health and migration—the practice of human rights and humanitarian law and humanitarian principles in complex and increasingly politicised environments.

Please submit your manuscript at: and ensure that you mention this call for papers in your cover letter. The submission deadline is October 4th, 2019.

Questions about the special issue should be directed to

Featured image credit: Felton Davis, Flickr