Migration and health in South Africa: a review of the current situation and recommendations for achieving the world health assembly resolution on the health of migrants

Migration and health in South Africa: a review of the current situation and recommendations for achieving the world health assembly resolution on the health of migrants

Coordinated regional response to migration and health needed in Southern Africa

Southern Africa represents a region of diverse migration patterns including the movement of people within countries, across borders and between different continents. This paper focuses on South Africa, and explores the linkages between health and the diverse movements of people within the county and across its borders.

The document finds that:

  • national census indicates that only 3% of the total South African population are cross-border migrants
  • a range of socio-political and economic drivers lead to the movement of people within the region
  • South Africa is historically associated with circular labour migration
  • most migrants remain connected to their households "back home” through the sending of remittances, or the reciprocal provision of care in times of sickness
  • current health-system planning within South Africa does not adequately engage with the health of migrants when they are in urban and transition areas.

The author emphasises the importance of engaging with a place-based approach to address the health of those affected by the migration process in South Africa. Furthermore, it suggests the following:

  • it is essential that South Africa develops, implements and monitors an evidence-based, coordinated, multi-level national response to migration and health
  • in this context, the role of local governments are crucial for an effective response, and local government is entitled to achieve its developmental mandate
  • planning should include addressing the needs of those who return home to die once they are too sick to work
  • this involves understanding the specific contexts in which diverse migrant groups are situated, from whence they originate, the migration decisions made, and their households that remain back home
  • in addition, South Africa is encouraged to work towards developing a coordinated regional response to migration and health.

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