Returning Migrants Often Bring Their Health Problems Home With Them

    Returning Migrants Often Bring Their Health Problems Home With Them
    Photo: AP
    Migrant workers who repair clothes in the street work in Benghazi, Libya

    This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

    Everyone knows life for refugees and migrant workers can be difficult, dangerous and even deadly. But what happens when they return home? One of the biggest problems for migrants is getting health care as they travel and live in a new place. As a result, they often bring their medical problems home with them.

    A new report looks at this situation. The report is from specialists at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, Switzerland.

    One of those authors was Haley West. She says migrant workers who get injured on the job may not be able to get treatment in the country where they are working. That lack of access to medical care means they have to deal with medical problems when they rejoin their family.

    HALEY WEST: "So when they return back home, they've got an occupational health issue that wasn't addressed in the country where they were working. And now, the diagnosis has probably been delayed. So that delay in diagnosis oftentimes leads to worse health issues that could have potentially been preventable if they had been given the access in the country in which they were working."

    Not all migrants travel for economic reasons. Many are forced from home by natural disaster, war or civil unrest. And not all health care needs are physical. Another author of the report, Rosilyne Borland, says people who have lived through that kind of situation may have psychological injuries.

    ROSILYNE BORLAND: "There's been some very interesting studies done on people who have been granted refugee status and the sorts of mental health challenges they face years down the road. So someone returning from mass displacement, even though I'm sure [they] are thrilled to be going home, they bring with them all sorts of challenges upon their return."

    Another problem for returning migrants is that they may not have much to return to.

    ROSILYNE BORLAND: "If the community was destroyed by the natural disaster or the war, then the health system has also been damaged, and the ability of that community to continue to keep people healthy is also challenged when they get back."

    Rosilyne Borland, Haley West and the other authors of the article have some suggestions. They call for policies to consider the needs of returning migrants and to make sure they can receive health testing.

    The report appeared in a six-part series on migration and health in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine. The journal editors say, "If internal and international migrants comprised a nation, it would be the third most populous country in the world, just after China and India."

    The editors say population mobility is among the leading policy issues of the twenty-first century. They say officials have not given enough attention to policies to protect migrants and global health. And the efforts have been made more difficult by a lack of coordination between countries.

    And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. For more health news, visit our website, I'm Christopher Cruise.


    Contributing: Art Chimes