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25-04-2023 10:14

Address by the Minister of Health Dr Popi Kanari at the meeting organized by WHO on Migration and Refugee Health

It gives me great pleasure in addressing you on the occasion of this important Meeting discussing a ‘Regional Action Plan on Migration and Refugee Health’, organised by WHO Europe in this beautiful island of Cyprus on the 25 and 26 April of 2023. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to all our honoured guests from neighbouring regions of Europe, Africa and Eastern Mediterranean and I sincerely hope that you shall have some time to enjoy some Cyprus hospitality in the island of Aphrodite.

The aim of this meeting is to discuss a road map for a new regional action plan on migrant and refugee health. Displacement and migration continue to be a social, political and public health reality for the Member States of the WHO European region and beyond. The WHO Regional Office for Europe led by Dr Hans Kluge Regional Director is developing this new action plan for refugee and migrant health in the WHO European Region of 2023 to 2030 in full consultation with Member States and key partners. We are very proud that this Europe wide consultation is taking place here in Larnaka, Cyprus. The meeting will be a milestone in defining regional work on health and migration going forward and we fully support these joint efforts in this field. This meeting will be an opportunity to reflect on lessons learnt from the previous action plan and on current challenges and opportunities for the future of migrant and refugee health.

Taking forward the priorities of the expired Action Plan for Refugee and Migrant Health in the WHO European Region 2016-2022, the new draft action plan is structured according to the five pillars of action endorsed and reviewed by the Migration Technical Advisory Group of WHO Europe within the current context and evidence base. Regarding the timeline of events, the final draft action plan shall be shared with the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee in June 2023 before being submitted for consideration at the 73rd session of the Regional Committee in October 2023.

The draft Regional Action Plan for Refugee and Migrant Health in the WHO European Region 2023-2030 aims to support countries to make health for all, including refugees and migrants, a reality. The purpose of the action plan is to articulate a common vision for health and migration to contribute to resourceful and resilient populations and an economy of well-being for all.

In the spirit of leaving no one behind, the action plan aims to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. It also aims to translate and operationalize global instruments on health and migration, including the Global Action Plan on Promoting the Health of Refugees and Migrants, in the regional context and in accordance with regional priorities.

The action plan addresses five strategic priorities in coherence with the vision.

  • Ensuring refugees and migrants benefit from universal health coverage
  • Implementing inclusive emergency and disaster risk reduction policies
  • Developing inclusive environments that promote human rights, social inclusion, health and well being
  • Strengthening migration and health governance and evidence and data-driven policymaking
  • Exploring innovative ways of working and developing enabling partnerships

The participation of so many countries demonstrates the importance for this region of developing a concerted action plan to deal with the refugee and migration crisis and this can only be tackled through regional and global cooperation. The world is changing rapidly with climate change, health and humanitarian emergencies and demographic shifts presenting important consequences for health and migration now and in the future.  We support the right to health for all but we emphasize the need for shared responsibility in this context acknowledging the stretched capacity of many health and social systems in the region. Health and migration is a global health issue and can only be addressed in a robust and sustainable way by building international and interregional solidarity and cooperation through a whole- of- route approach

During the second day of our meeting, officers from the Ministry of Health shall present to you the specific actions of the Republic of Cyprus regarding the following subjects.

  • Access of migrants and refugees to healthcare services in Cyprus
  • Specific standard operating procedures that are followed
  • Vaccination programme for migrants and refugees
  • National programme for identification and management of communicable diseases in refugees and migrants in the Republic of Cyprus.

The Republic of Cyprus fully endorses the development of this action plan and recognises that health is a fundamental human right and a key driver of peace, solidarity, inclusion and stability.

I would like to thank the WHO Europe Region Director for his initiative to organize this event. I would also like to wish that this workshop proves to be both fruitful and pivotal in forming a comprehensive policy.