WHO urges European action on migrant health
The World Health Organization on Monday called for international action to respond to the public health challenges resulting from Europe’s worst migrant crisis in decades, and urged assistance for refugees exhausted from long and perilous journeys.
“As refugees and migrants move, inter-country coordination must be strengthened across the European region, as well as with the countries of origin and transit,” WHO European director Zsuzsanna Jakab said in a statement.
The migrant influx “calls for a regional, comprehensive and systematic public health response,” she said following a WHO European regional meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
More than 430,000 people fleeing war, poverty and persecution have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe this year, with nearly 2,800 dying en route or going missing, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Many of those arriving — including babies, children and the elderly — suffer from dehydration, hypothermia, small wounds or discontinuation of treatment, WHO coordinator for public health and migration Santino Severoni told AFP.
The United Nations agency said it would hold a high-level conference soon “to agree on a common public health approach to large-scale migration” in Europe.
The health body dismissed widespread concerns that migrants would import infectious diseases, noting that not a single case of Ebola was brought into Europe by refugees or migrants.
Severoni said sick individuals would be unable to undertake the often arduous journey to a new life in Europe.
The WHO’s call for action came as the EU’s 28 interior ministers met to discuss proposals for a binding quota system to distribute migrants among member states.