Reaching Migrants is Key to Success in the Global Fight against TB: IOM

Philippines – One third of the estimated nine million people who get sick with tuberculosis each year miss out on care from established health systems, and with multidrug-resistant strains on the rise, the disease threatens to make deadly inroads into hard-to-reach populations.

Migrants are especially at risk of missing out on detection and treatment because they often suffer from marginalized social status, lack of access to health care and a fear of stigma. In many countries they risk deportation if they are found to have TB. 

On World TB Day 2014, IOM joins the international community in calling for a renewed focus on reaching the missing three million. “In an increasingly mobile world, it is vital that migrants are put at the centre of initiatives to combat the spread of TB and that low and high incidence countries work together to achieve a TB free world,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

The timeframe for a course of TB treatment is typically six months, during which migrant workers often move in search of work.  Poor knowledge of health systems among refugees and migrants in host countries often leads to a lack of awareness of the dangers of delays in seeking medical care or stopping taking medications early. 

Populations displaced by humanitarian crises may also have no choice but to keep moving, interrupting any treatment they are receiving.  These factors all make mobile communities especially vulnerable to multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

Half of the 22 “high burden” TB countries look set to miss the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of new cases per year by 2015. 

“Without targeted TB prevention and control strategies for migrants, several countries of origin, transit and destination for migrants will be unable to achieve or maintain elimination targets,” says of IOM’s Director of Migration Health Dr. Davide Mosca.

Further progress on reaching TB elimination targets will require prioritization – to reach key affected populations, to ensure availability of quality diagnostics and treatment, and to address MDR-TB and HIV/TB co-infection.

“As the global lead agency on migration, IOM believes that for inclusive human development, the health and human rights of migrants cannot be ignored,” says Director General Swing.

“Tuberculosis is not simply an infectious disease – it is also a disease of poverty, social vulnerability and marginalization. Every effort should be made to ensure provision of equitable TB services for migrants that respect their rights, while upholding national and international health legislation,” he notes. 

To learn more about IOM actions on TB, please go to http://health.iom.int.

For further information, please contact

Dr. Poonam Dhavan
IOM Manila
Email: pdhavan@iom.int
Tel. +63.2.2301631

Note to Editors: IOM is at the forefront of TB and migration activities around the world, conducting pre-departure TB screening for refugees due to be resettled, community-based TB projects and integration of TB prevention and control in emergency health response projects. IOM works closely with global TB control partners including WHO, STOP TB, Global Fund and the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease to advance the TB and migration agenda.