Elimination of Malaria is possible…. but only when human mobility is considered
Geneva – Human mobility is a major social determinant of health that can increase malaria-related illness and deaths for migrants and host communities, especially along migration corridors. With close to one in every seven individuals on the move globally, populations traveling from an area with high malaria burden can potentially re-introduce malaria into low-transmission or malaria-free areas. The combination of social and economic inequalities and discriminatory policies in all sectors, such as health, immigration, labor and social protection, often limit migrants’ access to appropriate malaria prevention, diagnostics, treatment and care services. This perpetuates the disease cycle among migrants and host communities.
In 2017, malaria was one of the leading causes of death due to communicable disease worldwide; there were an estimated 219 million new cases and 435,000 deaths. It is key to understand migrant mobility patterns and associated malaria risk factors to improve migration outcomes, and reduce vulnerability in migrants’ living, working and transit conditions, which increase their likelihood of contracting malaria.
Malaria can only be eliminated when evidence-based operational approaches have been identified to reach migrant populations, improve vector control and ensure migrants' access to malaria services, while promoting surveillance, referrals and treatment between national health systems.
Migrants urgently need to be included in global, national and local prevention and control strategies to support the elimination of malaria, following the spirit of Sustainable Development targets that aim for Universal Health Coverage, and in line with the objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and Resolution 70.15 of the World Health Assembly on Promoting the health of refugees and migrants (2017).
IOM currently supports malaria programming across many countries, often through the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In Yemen, Thailand and Somalia, IOM has implemented multi-pronged evidence-based public health strategies, including interventions around vector control, distribution of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLIN) and behavior change communication campaigns to raise awareness around prevention and encourage treatment seeking behaviors, including drug compliance.
In Paraguay, a country now certified by WHO as free of Malaria (2018), IOM supported the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in strengthening the National Strategy for the Prevention of the Reintroduction of Malaria, placing an emphasis on disease prevention, identification of potential cases, accurate diagnosis, treatment as well as the empowerment of resources and skills in the 18 health regions of the country.
The elimination of malaria will require a universal approach of strengthening community responses that understand the determinants of migrants’ health and build on sustainable and mobility competent health systems that address the many challenges of malaria control in an increasingly interconnected world.
Read stories about IOM’s work with malaria-affected migrant communities .
For more information please contact IOM HQ:
Carlos Van der Laat, Tel: +41227179459, Email: