World Federation for Mental Health Statement
for the WHO 70th World Health Assembly
with reference to Agenda Item 13.7: Promoting the health of refugees and migrants
The World Health Organization’s recent shift in approach to the health care of refugees and migrants from humanitarian-based care to an approach based on broader health systems offers an opportunity to integrate mental health care into services.
Given the magnitude of the crisis caused by forced displacement, emergency care and health systems-based care will both be needed. The World Federation for Mental Health supports efforts to integrate mental health care in overall health care wherever possible.
Special attention should be paid to those vulnerable people who had a serious mental illness before a regional crisis took place. Their special needs are often neglected if they become refugees or displaced persons—but given the proportion of people with mental health conditions in general populations, the proportion must also be high among refugees and displaced persons. The numbers will be made higher by the displacement experience.
The situation of migrants in the Middle East, in southern Europe and in Africa presents an enormous challenge. Despite the many priorities in providing care, and the constraints required by budgets, mental health care should be included in assistance.
Planning should take account of the health of women, adolescents, children and the elderly. Many of them have experienced violence in crisis situations. Children in particular may be exposed to a lifetime of mental health consequences.
The Report of the High-Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents, newly released by the World Health Organization and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasizes a goal of achieving the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for marginalized people such as migrants and refugees.
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