U.S. Must Ensure Resources to Adequately Address the Healthcare Issues of Migrants
Posted 1 May 2019
Arlington, Va. (July 1, 2019) — To see migrants dying while fleeing for their lives anywhere in the world is heartbreaking. The most recent picture of the Salvadoran father and his daughter face down on the banks of the Rio Grande is a tragic confirmation that what is happening on the U.S. southern border is unacceptable from a health policy and humanitarian standpoint.
"Human migration has always occurred and will always occur as people flee persecution, war, famine and climate change, or flee toward a better life for themselves and their families," states Chandy C. John, MD, MS, FASTMH, President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. "As a pediatrician, the detention of children, and the separation of children from their parents, both of which may have lifelong consequences for that child and their family, is deeply disturbing to me."
As a global scientific society grounded in respect for all people everywhere, ASTMH believes in upholding principles of international human rights law. We must uphold international standards for the appropriate care of children, including no detention of children and basic humanitarian standards such as appropriate medical care.
As a society of scientists and clinicians that understand firsthand the health conditions impoverished and desperate people around the world face, ASTMH implores Congress and the Administration to ensure that the resources are available to adequately address the healthcare issues of migrants. It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Ignored or undertreated health issues of migrants will likely lead to avoidable and costly financial and human costs. In addition, outbreaks of communicable disease can occur, putting those in refugee camps and unsanitary urban encampments at risk.
We can do better. Migration medicine research and tools ensure that. The recent Congressional appropriations bill authorizing $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid is a welcome first step that must be followed by swift action on the ground. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as their partner agencies within HHS, including CDC and the Administration for Children and Families, must receive the necessary resources and skilled personnel to diagnose, treat and assist migrants with any health issue.
Without safe, orderly migration, human lives are tragically lost, and societies as a whole are lessened. The issue of migration and migration medicine is a test of our humanity, and our responses, both positive and negative, will have implications for many years to come.
ASTMH stands ready to work with Congress and the Administration to develop evidence-based migration policies. By working together, we can see safe, orderly policies put into place that reflect the ideals and values of all Americans.