Migration Health & Sustainable Development

With migration being such a prominent factor in daily life today, the international society has progressively grown more aware of how migrants actively contribute to positive development outcomes in both host and origin countries. Yet, they are often marginalized and face considerable barriers in accessing health care services; as a result, their ability to remain healthy and productive can be compromised.

A milestone in this context is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, officially adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. Setting 17 detailed and comprehensive goals to be achieved for a sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda presents opportunities and challenges with respect to meeting the needs of migrants, which have been of major concern for IOM’s Migration Health Division.

In the wake of the 2030 Agenda call to “Leave No One Behind”, Governments are encouraged to integrate the health needs of migrants into national plans, policies, and strategies across sectors. While many goals, declined in their several targets, can be extensively interpreted and linked to the multi sectoral domain of migration health, there are some whose interpretation is particularly compelling. Entry points into the Sustainable Development Goals for migrant health include for example:

  • Goal 3, Target 3.8, “Achieve universal health coverage”, is intrinsically inclusive of the entirety of a population and by default includes migrants, and promotes equal access to health services for all migrants irrespective of their legal status;
  • Goal 5, Target 5.6 focuses on “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights”;
  • Goal 8, Targets 8.7 and 8.8 focus on decent work, labour rights of migrant workers and counter trafficking in human beings;
  • Goal 10, Target 10.7 focuses on “well-planned and managed migration policies”;
  • Goal 17, Target 17.16 enhances global partnerships across sectors and Target 17.18 calls for an increase of availability of disaggregated data by migration status.


It is in fact now widely understood that being and staying healthy is not only part of migrants’ human rights, but also a fundamental precondition for them to work, be productive and contribute to the social and economic development of their communities, both of origin and destination.

Therefore, coordinated efforts are needed to ensure that migrant health is addressed throughout the migration cycle, as are efforts to adapt and strengthen the resilience of local health systems in light of more diverse population health profiles. Addressing the health of migrants and affected local populations reduces long-term health and social costs, is good public health practice, facilitates integration and contributes to social and economic development. The healthier migrants are and remain, the more efficient and balanced the future of our highly mobile and globalized society will be.