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Migration and health in southern Africa: Access to care and Universal Health Coverage

- Wits University

Wits and African and global partners kick off a week-long programme focusing on migration and access to care and Universal Health Coverage in southern Africa.

The #MigrationHealth programme includes an Early Career Researchers workshop for emerging young scholars at Wits, a closed Chatham House regional policy roundtable, and a public symposium and exhibition that culminates in the South African launch of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health report.

The symposium brings together government, civil society, and academia to explore opportunities for improving responses to migration and health in southern Africa.

Click here for the full symposium-launch programme. Click here to RSVP.

Wits hosts a  Migration and Health symposium and the southern African launch of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health in August 2019

Young Wits scholars researching the health of a (new) world on the move 

The Early Career Researchers workshop, supported by the international Migration Health and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI), is currently underway at Wits until Tuesday, 30 July. The workshop targets Wits postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows working on migration and health in southern Africa. Sessions focus on research methods and ethics, theoretical and conceptual approaches to the study of migrant health, and refugee health.

“We have a collective responsibility to support the development and training of the next generation of African migration and health scholars. Partnerships with other LMICs [low- and middle-income countries] will strengthen our ability to engage in and redirect global migration and health governance debates, ensuring that the realities of the southern African region are addressed,” says Associate Prof. Jo Vearey, Director of the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Wits and Vice-Chair of the global Migration, Health, and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI). 

Over 40 early career researchers from Wits are participating in sessions facilitated by African and global experts including Kit Leung from the International Organization on Migration Southern Africa, and Dr Anuj Kapilashrami of the Global Health Policy, Queen Mary University, amongst others. 

Chatham House Regional Policy Roundtable: Ensuring no-one is left behind 

“This roundtable focuses on South Africa and the Southern African Development Community… Specifically the roundtable aims to address key migration and health challenges in South Africa and the SADC region" 

(Chatham House briefing document, "Migration and Health in South Africa and the region: addressing access to care and inclusion in universal health coverage", 31.7.2019)

The Chatham House, Wits University and UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health regional policy roundtable takes place on Wednesday, 31 July, at Wits University. In the Chatham House tradition, the roundtable is by invitation only. The Chatham House Rule of a closed session originated with the aim of encouraging openness of discussion and facilitating the sharing of information. It provides a way for speakers to openly discuss their views in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public and contribute to a broader conversation.

This high-level regional policy roundtable at Wits University will focus on the practicalities of access to healthcare and the integration of internal, cross-border and international migrants into the Universal Health Coverage framework evolving in South Africa and the region. Depending on the level of consensus reached, following the roundtable, a policy statement (without attribution) will likely be compiled and distributed, subject to sign-off by all participants.

Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a world-leading policy institute based in London, whose mission is to support governments and societies build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world. 

Public Symposium: Governance, Data, and the Politics of Migration and Health - Implications for Universal Health Coverage in southern Africa  

“Public leaders and elected officials have a political, social, and legal responsibility to oppose xenophobia and racism that fuels prejudice and exclusion of migrant populations … Health professionals’ and organisations’ awareness of racism and prejudice should be strengthened”

(UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health, 5.12.2019, pg. 11)

The one-day symposium features panel discussions on topics including migration, health and universal health care in southern Africa. Associate Prof. Jo Vearey will lead the discussion on Migration and Health: a public health priority for southern Africa. Wits Prof. Laetitia Rispel, DST/ NRF SARCHi Research Chair on the Health Workforce for Equity and Quality, and President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, will respond to a presentation by Dr Ranieri Guerra, Assistant Director-General WHO Lead for UN High Level meeting on UHC, World Health Organization.

The panel discussion on data, methods and ethics, facilitated by Dr Sasha Frade in Wits Demography and Population Studies will explore new ways of researching migration and health, associated ethical and methodological challenges, and ways of overcoming these.

Wits panellists include Prof. Mark Collinson and Dr Carren Ginsburg, who will discuss internal migration dynamics in southern Africa with evidence from different data sources. Prof. Lorena Nunez in Sociology will reflect on social research on migration and health.

Mr Diego Iturralde, Chief Director: Demography, Statistics SA will provide a national perspective, while Dr Kolitha Wickramage, Global Migration Health Research Coordinator, International Organization for Migration, will reflect on linking to data gaps in a global context.  

The politics and practice of migration and health research panel will be a facilitated discussion reflecting on the current political context. Dr B Camminga, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Wits will facilitate this session, focussing on who is ‘left behind' in research on migration and health. Wits panellists include Prof. Loren Landau, SARCHi Research Chair on Mobility and the Politics of Difference, Dr Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon in Anthropology, and Dr Duduzile Ndlovu (ACMS). Ms Sharon Ekambaram from Lawyers for Human Rights and Thifulufheli Sinthumule, Director of the Consortium for Refugees & Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) complete the panel.

B Camminga from the African Centre for Migration and Society facilitates a session at the Migration Health symposium at Wits on 1 August 2019

South African launch of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health: the health of a world on the move report

“We call on nation states, multilateral agencies, non-governmental organization, and civil society to positively and effectively address the health of migrants by improving leadership and accountability.”  (UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health, 5.12.2018, pg. 11).

Prof. Steve Tollman, Commissioner of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health, and director and co-founder of the MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit will chair the launch session exploring the implications of the Lancet Commission findings for South Africa and southern Africa.

“In the South African context, we have a massive gap in understanding internal migration. There are profound data gaps in an area where opinion, perception, and political advantage tend to take precedence,” says Tollman.

“Through the Lancet process, we seek to bring data and evidence to bear, to both counter prevailing myths and highlight the need to strengthen our understanding – which, in the South African and regional arena, relates directly to internal, often labour, migrants.” 

Wits Prof. Steve Tollman of MRC Wits Agincourt Unit is a commissioner of the Lancet Commission of migration and health, launch in SA on 1 August 2019

Dr Ranieri Guerra, Assistant Director-General WHO Lead for UN high level meeting on UHC, World Health Organization will speak on ensuring South Africa’s role as a global leader in migration health and Dr Miriam Orcutt, Coordinator of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Global Health, University College London, will share the main messages from the Commission.

Responding panellists include Dr Davide Mosca, Institute for Global Health and Lancet Commissioner; Dr Joseph Pitso,  Senior Programme Officer: Gender, Gender Unit Health SADC; Liesbeth Schockaert, Médicens sans Frontierès (MSF) Southern Africa; and Kit Leung,  International Organization for Migration Southern Africa.

Wits researcher and activist, Dr Shakira Choonara wraps up the launch with the way forward for migration and health in South Africa. Prof. Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor, Wits University will open and close the launch, which concludes with a walkabout of the outdoor exhibition and light dinner.

Dr Shakira Choonara is a speaker at the Wits Migration and Health symposium and Lancet Commission on Migration and Health launch on 1 August 2019

About the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health report

First launched in the UK on 5 December 2018, the UCL-Lancet Report on Migration and Health revealed that harmful and unfounded myths about migration and health have become accepted and that these are used to justify policies of exclusion. The report refutes groundless narratives about migrants including: 

  • The myth that “migrants are disease-carriers that pose a risk to resident populations”
  • The myth that “migrants are a burden on health services”
  • The myth that “migrants have too many children”
  • The myth that “high-income countries are being over-whelmed by migrants”
  • The myth that “migrants damage economies”.  

“The report is a systematic assessment of evidence and understanding about migration based on already published work,” says Tollman.