Uganda Hosts Regional Meeting to explore ways to include Migrant Workers’ Health Care in Labour Migration Governance

A South Sudanese official speaks on the opening day of the East and Horn of Africa Regional Workshop on Inclusion of Migrant Workers' Health in Labour Migration Governance, in Entebbe, Uganda, 16 May 2022. Photo: IOM/Richard M Kavuma

IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Sanusi Tejan Savage makes welcome remarks at the opening of the East and Horn of Africa Regional Workshop on Inclusion of Migrant Workers' Health in Labour Migration Governance, in Entebbe, Uganda 16 May 2022
Photo: IOM/Richard M Kavuma

Entebbe, Uganda– A regional workshop on inclusion of migrant workers’ and their families’ health care in Bilateral Labour Migration Agreements (BLMAs), and national and regional health strategies has ended in Entebbe, Uganda. The meeting brought together officials from the ministries of Health, Labour, Interior, and Gender in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Rwanda, Federal Republic of Somalia, Republic of South Sudan and Republic of Uganda. It was hosted by the Government of Uganda in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency. 
Migrants have a variety of different physical and mental health needs, shaped by experiences in their country of origin, their migration journey, their host country’s entry, integration policies,  living and working conditions and access to health services is a significant part of the protection and rights of migrant workers and their families.

Today, an estimated 281 million people are working as migrant workers outside of their country of nationality, nearly 8 million of whom are from the East and Horn of Africa region. Assessments done by IOM reveal that barriers to social protection and health services are even greater for people with disabilities, women and girls. They are likely to find difficulties in accessing sexual and gender-based violence protection and response services. Migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors, are also more likely to experience traumatic events and stressful situations and may struggle to access affordable health care. Migrants generally could be at risk of poor mental health because of their migration experiences. 

In the region, this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted health services, putting people already in vulnerable situations at heightened risk and hampering the ability of health systems to respond to their needs. The pandemic highlighted existing inequities in access to and utilization of health services. Migrants suffered the negative economic impact of lockdown, travel restrictions, and forced returns to their countries of origin.

The number of people on the move in the East and Horn of Africa is expected to grow due to poverty, lack of security, lack of access to basic services, conflict, environmental degradation, and disasters. As such IOM endeavors to host forums in the region that foster dialogue between governments and participating sectors on gaps and opportunities for addressing migrant workers health inclusion and to provide recommendations for increased collaboration.

The workshop in Uganda laid the groundwork for the inclusion of more Ministries into the Bilateral Labour Migration Agreements process as well as consideration of migrant workers and their families protection in their policies, strategies, and frameworks.  It improved participants’ understanding of International Migration Law and Governance, including how these principles might apply to enhance the inclusion of migrant workers and their families’ health into BLMAs and national and regional health strategies.

It also provided opportunities to identify gaps and variances in policy and practice, showcasing best practices around the world and exchanging innovative ideas. Attendees were provided with the tools to accurately understand the vulnerabilities migrant workers face, with relation to health, national health strategic plans, health strategies, pandemic preparedness plans and more – all of which contribute to safe, orderly, and regular migration within and from the region. 

Welcoming the participants on 16 May, IOM  Uganda Chief of Mission Sanusi Tejan Savage  said: “Migrants tend to work in more physically and mentally demanding environments than native workers. 
Migrant workers can be at higher risk of exposure to workplace hazards and face additional work-related risk factors and unfavorable social determinants of health. These determinants include employment and wage discrimination, poor working and living conditions, lack of access to social protection, and language and culture barriers. ” 

The IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, Mohammed Abdiker, said: “Migrants, particularly in an irregular situation, are often excluded from national programmes for health promotion, disease prevention, treatment, and care, as well as from financial protection in health. They can also face high user fees, low levels of health literacy, poor cultural competency among health providers, stigma, and inadequate interpreting services.” 

In remarks prepared for the opening, Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Betty Amongi, placed the workshop’s objectives in the protection context of the Regional Ministerial Forum on Migration (RMFM), established with IOM support in Nairobi in January 2020.

“The aim of RMFM is to promote the social, economic, labour and human rights of migrant workers and members of their families, intra and inter-regionally  and  to strengthen labour migration governance through regional common approaches and social dialogue,” read the speech, presented by the ministry’s officer in charge of external employment, Hilary Talemwa.

Indeed, the workshop complemented IOM’s  efforts in EHOA in working closely with governments to address the migrant workers health and inclusion of access to health services in the social protection schemes through the RMFM on Harmonizing Labour Migration Policies in East and Horn of Africa: A United Approach on Safe, Regular and Humane Labour Migration and the RMFM Technical Working Group on Bilateral Labour Migration Agreements (BLMAs), Ethical Recruitment, International Migration Law (IML) and Migrant Workers’ Rights. 

Workshop participants identified practical recommendations for both national and regional issues in migrant worker and their families’ access to health. These recommendations centered around more inclusive policy development, provision of access to psychosocial support, adequate licensure of Private Recruitment Agencies, and all-around capacitation of stakeholders involved at all points in the labour migration cycle. 

The workshop was organized under the scope of the Better Regional Migration Management program, Labour Mobility and Regional Integration for Safe, Orderly and Humane Labour Migration in East and Horn of Africa, East Africa Migration Management, program funded by Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office, UK. 

For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact IOM Regional Office  Media & Communication Unit at  or Janet Adongo, Communications Officer, IOM East and Horn of Africa on   / Phone:  +254722750153.