A university Don, Prof. Ikechukwu Anthony Kanu, O.S.A has said that the era of the Coronavirus disease otherwise known as Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the entire globe calls for an inclusive approach by public health efforts in relation to the health of migrants, in such a way that is all inclusive.
Kanu who stated this in a lecture entitled, “Covid-19 and the Health of Migrants”, delivered at the International Online Migration Summit organized by the Journalists International Forum for Migration (JIFORM) yesterday noted that while governments needed to tighten their borders and implement other measures in response to COVID-19, they also needed to consider the impact of those measures on migrants and ensure that such actions did not prevent people from accessing safety, health-care services, and information.
He observed that COVID-19 pandemic had brought difficult situations for citizens of nations across the world adding that the effects, however, may be more severe for others, like vulnerable migrants, who were in desperate situations, and whose conditions may well further deteriorate if not put into consideration.
According to him, “The possibility of the deterioration of the situation of migrants is based on the fact that: First, the precautionary measure of social distancing will place them in conditions where they would get less support and access to the basic necessities of life. This is evident with the developments in Italy and Libya. Second, they are not in a position to keep to the precautionary measures for preventing COVID-19 as they don’t have access to clean water and soap to wash their hands, among others.
“Third, this is compounded by the fact that it has become more difficult than ever for migrants to cross borders and move into countries of their destination. This, obviously, exposes them to health hazards. Fourth, it is even more difficult to return back to their countries of origin, as borders have also been closed by transit countries and back home. The implications are that migrants will have to stay in camps and temporary settlements, where there are increased health risks and heightened psychological pressure of having hopes crushed after years of waiting and uncertainty.
“Fifth, some migrants have been deported during this period of COVID-19, and left in a situation of confusion and hopelessness. The search for an alternative place gives them no option of choosing where to go or stay and, thus, places them at risk of associating with people who may have COVID-19. Unfortunately, migrants are unlikely to take priority in a moment in which governments are mobilizing all resources to care for their citizens. These concerns make the discussion on COVID-19 and the health of migrants a fundamental one.”
Prof. Kanu who is also the Rector, Villanova Polytechnic, Imesi-Ile in Osun state pointed out that “There are different phases in the lives of migrants that may leave the migrant with very serious health challenges to deal with, depending on the nature of the phase. The first is the Pre-Migration Phase, which includes the reason for their departure; if it is a war situation or other forms of violence, the mental health of the migrant is already at stake.
“The second is the Movement Phase. During the process of movement, the abuses and violence that they encounter on the way can be very impactful on the health of the migrant. And because of the poor health conditions that many migrants encounter on the way, they are likely to arrive their countries of destination with a bad health conditions.
“The third is the Arrival Phase. When migrants arrive at their destination countries, the way they are received has huge health consequences. Even if they are well received by their countries of destination, the conditions of those they have left at home continue to be a great source of worry to them, especially, if their relations are still struggling to survive in a situation of war or other forms of violence. If they are separated with loved ones, especially a wife or husband, this has its own difficulties. If the migrant owes the person who smuggled him or her into the destination country or facilitated his or her movement, he or she faces the burden of working hard to pay the person.”
Tracing the effects of the Covid-19 on internal/domestic as well as international migration, he said, “Internally, Nigeria has seen the movement of people, especially the elderly, from cities to rural areas. The movement from cities to villages is because of the fact that COVID-19 is prevalent in cities than villages. The Kano state government, in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic, on 21st April, 2020 evacuated more than one thousand Almajiri’s to their respective states and local governments. 432 Almajiri’s have been handed over to the Katsina state government at the Kano/Katsina boarder, Yobe 63, Kaduna 198, Bauchi 101, Zamfara 1, Gombe 9, Nassarawa 10, Niger Republic 1, Kano Local Governments 117 and Jigawa 663.
“At the level of international migration, since the emergence of COVID-19, many Nigerians abroad have been returning home, and many are still asking to be brought back by the Federal Government. On 20th April, 2020, the Minister of Foreign Affairs- Geoffrey Onyeama announced that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 would be bringing back Nigerian nationals from the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, China, among other countries in batches of 200 .
“As Nigerian nationals are returning home, other nationals in Nigeria have been evacuated by their respective countries. On 19th April, 2020, about 300 American nationals and 293 British nationals were evacuated from Nigeria through the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. These evacuations came after about 274 Israeli citizens were evacuated from Nigeria to their home country in March 2020. And these evacuations continued in the days ahead of 19th April, 2020.”
Speaking Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the health and wellbeing of migrants, he maintained that ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration, involved in a fundamental way the good health and wellbeing of the migrant.
He continued, “In fact, the third goal of the SDGs is on good health and well-being: If his or her health and well-being is not protected, it means that the migration is not safe and orderly. The world cannot talk about sustainable development without caring for the health and wellbeing of migrants. And this is exactly where COVID-19 and migrants take their place. Migrants must be protected by governments during this period of COVID-19 by being sensitive to their access to health services in the same way as other nationals.”
On way forward, Prof. Kanu who is also President, Association for the Promotion of African Studies hinted that there was the need to reconsider the unjustified fear or suspicion of migrants as careers of disease insisting that this stigmatization had several consequences on the receiving countries as migrants were more likely to be slow at seeking treatment or disclosing symptoms out of fear.
“National public health systems should always consider migrants in their various schemes- they should be such that the migrants can afford. This is important as the world continues to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. There cannot be sustainable development when the health of migrants is not put into consideration.
“There should be an orientation for migrants, right from the time they are received at the borders of nations on the precautionary measures to take during this period of COVID-19. These measures should also be written or presented in languages that the migrants can understand and through appropriate communication tools”, he concluded.
Photo: Rector, Villanova Polytechnic, Imesi-Ile, Osun State, Prof. Ikechukwu Anthony Kanu, O.S.A.
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