First IGAD Scientific Conference on Health Focuses on Migrants

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 5, 2014— Migrants are the focus of the first East Africa International Authority on Development (IGAD) Scientific Conference on Health taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 3-6 December.

IOM is presenting five abstracts related to migration health concerns at the conference, the theme of which is: “Innovative Approaches to Equitable Access to HIV, Reproductive Health and Related Services among Pastoralists and Mobile Populations”.

Many migrants and host communities, particularly at border crossing points, are affected by health issues such as HIV/AIDS, which is still a major challenge to most governments in the region.

Born and raised in a Kenyan border town, James Tafida was 14 years old when he started selling sex. James had no money. His parents were farmers and could only sustain themselves. He is now 25 and is still selling his body for between USD 5-10 a day. “Border towns are known for male sex workers. At the border, people mind their own business. No one cares what happens underneath the surface,” he says. “There was no money for us. My friend suddenly had all this money and eventually told me it was because he was ‘seeing men for an evening.’ I thought that if he was doing it, I could do it also.”

Most of his clients are migrant workers – mainly truck drivers – from neighbouring countries who come to the border town of Isebania while in transit to other countries. As a male sex worker, James relies on his network of clients to refer new clients. He knows his work carries risks. “Most of my clients use condoms to protect themselves against HIV. I have never gone for testing. I am afraid,” he says.

A study conducted in 2013 by IOM found that the health vulnerabilities of migrants, including migrant workers such as truck drivers at the different One Stop Border Posts (OSBP), are very high. OSBP are intended to facilitate transport and movement of people in East Africa by hosting both entry and exit procedures at one site.

Workers are away from home for long periods of time, separated from their families, have inadequate social protection and limited access to social services, health care and education.

The key objectives of the conference are to share knowledge and best practices on health among migrant populations and to map out new directions and policy orientations for accelerated and sustainable delivery of health services, as well as enhanced cooperation, with a wide range of partners.

SOURCE: International Office of Migration (IOM)