Moving forward: why responding to migration, mobility and HIV in South(ern) Africa is a public health priority (2018)

Moving forward: why responding to migration, mobility and HIV in South(ern) Africa is a public health priority [open access]

Jo Vearey


Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS) 21 (S4)

Open Access



Global migration policy discussions are increasingly driven by moral panics – public anxiety about issues thought to threaten the moral standards of society. This includes the development of two Global Compacts – agreed principles to guide an international response – for (1) “Refugees” and (2) “Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration.” While the need to address migration and health is increasingly recognized at the global level, concerns are raised about if this will be reflected in the final Compacts. The Compacts focus on securitization, an approach that aims to restrict the movement of people, presenting potentially negative health consequences for people who move. Globally, concern is raised that migration‐aware public health programming initiatives could be co‐opted through a global health security agenda to further restrict movement across borders. This is particularly worrying in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – a regional economic community associated with high levels of migration and the largest population of people living with HIV globally; this case is used to explore concerns about the health implications of the Global Compacts.


Current HIV responses in SADC do not adequately engage with the movement of healthcare users within and between countries. This negatively affects existing HIV interventions and has implications for the development of universal HIV testing and treatment (UTT) programmes. Drawing on literature and policy review, and ongoing participant observation in policy processes, I outline how Global Compact processes may undermine HIV prevention efforts in SADC.

The global health imperative of developing migration‐aware and mobility‐competent health responses must not be undermined by moral panics; the resultant international policy processes run the risk of jeopardizing effective action at the local level. Globally, migration is increasingly recognized as a central public health concern, providing strategic opportunities to strengthen public health responses for all. Without mainstreaming migration, however, health responses will struggle. This is particularly concerning in SADC where HIV programmes – including UTT initiatives – will struggle, and key health targets will not be met. Globally, contextually appropriate migration‐aware responses to health are needed, including and a specific focus on HIV programming in SADC.

Bibliometric analysis of global migration health research in peer-reviewed literature (2000–2016)

  • Waleed M. Sweileh
  • Kolitha Wickramage,
  • Kevin Pottie,
  • Charles Hui,
  • Bayard Roberts,
  • Ansam F. Sawalha and
  • Saed H. Zyoud
BMC Public Health 2018 18:777



The health of migrants has become an important issue in global health and foreign policy. Assessing the current status of research activity and identifying gaps in global migration health (GMH) is an important step in mapping the evidence-base and on advocating health needs of migrants and mobile populations. The aim of this study was to analyze globally published peer-reviewed literature in GMH.


A bibliometric analysis methodology was used. The Scopus database was used to retrieve documents in peer-reviewed journals in GMH for the study period from 2000 to 2016. A group of experts in GMH developed the needed keywords and validated the final search strategy.


The number of retrieved documents was 21,457. Approximately one third (6878; 32.1%) of the retrieved documents were published in the last three years of the study period. In total, 5451 (25.4%) documents were about refugees and asylum seekers, while 1328 (6.2%) were about migrant workers, 440 (2.1%) were about international students, 679 (3.2%) were about victims of human trafficking/smuggling, 26 (0.1%) were about patients’ mobility across international borders, and the remaining documents were about unspecified categories of migrants. The majority of the retrieved documents (10,086; 47.0%) were in psychosocial and mental health domain, while 2945 (13.7%) documents were in infectious diseases, 6819 (31.8%) documents were in health policy and systems, 2759 (12.8%) documents were in maternal and reproductive health, and 1918 (8.9%) were in non-communicable diseases. The contribution of authors and institutions in Asian countries, Latin America, Africa, Middle East, and Eastern European countries was low. Literature in GMH represents the perspectives of high-income migrant destination countries.


Our heat map of research output shows that despite the ever-growing prominence of human mobility across the globe, and Sustainable Development Goals of leaving no one behind, research output on migrants’ health is not consistent with the global migration pattern. A stronger evidence base is needed to enable authorities to make evidence-informed decisions on migration health policy and practice. Research collaboration and networks should be encouraged to prioritize research in GMH.

Report: Global Consultation on Migration and Health (2017)

1st Global Consultation on Migrant Health

2010 | Madrid, Spain

The 2010 Global Consultation on Migrant Health was convened as a result of the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on the Health of Migrants, which asks Member States to take action on migrant-sensitive health policies and practices. Accordingly, WHO and IOM, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Policy of Spain, held a Global Consultation on Migrant Health in March 2010 in Madrid to: take stock of actions taken since the endorsement of the Resolution; reach consensus on priority areas and strategies; and identify the elements of an operational framework to assist Member States and stakeholders in making further progress on the issue. This consultation report offers a summary of the issues discussed at the consultation and presents an outline for an operational framework to guide action by key stakeholders. The report also includes the thematic papers that informed the consultation discussion, background materials concerning selected migration-related terminology, the text of key speeches and other relevant documents.

The report can be downloaded here.

2nd Global Consultation on Migrant Health: Resetting the Agenda
Jointly Organized by IOM, WHO and the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
21-23 February 2017 | Colombo, Sri Lanka

Convened in Sri Lanka in February 2017, the 2nd Global Consultation on Migrant Health brought together approximately 130 participants from all geographical regions representing various sectors within Governments, as well as civil society organizations, academics, experts, international organizations, regional institutions and professional and migrant associations. It provided a platform for in-depth discussion on migration health and explored ways to address the fact that millions of migrants are still denied access to health services and remain invisible in global health initiatives. Moreover, the event identified key opportunities, concerns, recommendations, and actions to advance the agenda. The participants’ rich contributions to the Consultation allowed for debates on the development of a progress monitoring framework, actionable policy objectives and a research agenda on migration health.

The final report can be downloaded here.

The UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health

The Lancet Commission on Migration and Health

The UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health includes an independent group of academics, policymakers, and health system experts with experience across the world. The Commission is reviewing current knowledge and producing new empirical work and policy recommendations on the role of migration on health. It will disseminate these findings to national and global policymakers and institutions.

The Migration and Health Project Southern Africa

The Migration and Health Project Southern Africa, University of the Witwatersrand

Involving a series of unique research and public engagement projects, the Migration and Health Project Southern Africa (maHp) aims to explore (and evaluate) ways to generate and communicate knowledge in order to improve responses to migration, health and well-being in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Multiple disciplinary perspectives, mixed method approaches, and the involvement of various stakeholders – including migrants themselves – are central.

More here.

The IOM Migration Health Division

The IOM Migration Health Division

Within its Migration Health Division (MHD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in its role of United Nations Migration Agency, delivers and promotes comprehensive, preventive and curative health programmes which are beneficial, accessible, and equitable for migrants and mobile populations. Bridging the needs of both migrants and IOM member states, MHD, in close collaboration with partners, contributes towards the physical, mental and social well-being of migrants, enabling them and host communities to achieve social and economic development.

More here.

MHADRI Early Career Researchers

We are forming a Working Group to create an Early Career Researchers (ECR) sub-committee of MHADRI. The purpose of the sub-committee is to promote the research and careers of ECR network members through collaboration and knowledge exchange.

The aims of this working group would be:

  1. To determine the core activities of the ECR sub-committee.
  2. To develop its operational strategy and set priorities.
  3. To develop global and regional recruitment and engagement strategies.

If are you interested in becoming involved, please send an email to Rachel Burns for more information!

Join us!

The global Migration, Health, and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI) aims to advance evidence-informed global migration health policies and practices that will improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities affected by migration.

We invite active researchers, from any discipline and organisational background –  including early career researchers, graduate students and NGO-based researchers – to join the network.  Members are currently researching any aspect(s) of the relationship between migration and health, especially those based in global south contexts, from developing nations or those classified as low-income, lower-middle-income or upper-middle-income countries.

You can join the MHADRI network here.