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Gavi, IOM join forces to improve immunization coverage for migrants

In partnership with the Department of Health (Philippines) -Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) and through the support of EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid – ECHO, IOM helped deliver much needed measles and Japanese encephalitis vaccines to children in communities affected by Typhoon Mangkhut. Photo: IOM / Andrea Empamano

  • Memorandum of Understanding signed today will strengthen collaboration on vaccination efforts and related health services for migrants and forcibly displaced persons across the world
  • The agreement focuses on reaching missed communities in humanitarian and emergency settings with vaccination
  • Dr Seth Berkley: Reaching migrant, refugee and displaced populations “becomes all the more important as we plan to rollout COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.”
  • António Vitorino: “Vaccines are key to keep people on the move and the communities they live in as safe as possible.”

Geneva, 24 November 2020 – Today, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen their collaboration on vaccination efforts and related health services for migrants and forcibly displaced persons across the world, both regarding routine immunizations as well as in response to outbreaks. This milestone will be particularly critical in ensuring that migrants and other people on the move are considered and included, as the world continues its efforts to find a safe COVID-19 vaccine and is developing mechanisms, such as the COVAX Facility, to ensure a fair distribution so that as many lives as possible can be saved.

“Despite enormous progress over the past two decades ensuring children everywhere have access to lifesaving vaccines, 14 million children every year still miss out on basic vaccines,” said Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley. “We know a disproportionate amount of these unprotected children come from migrant, refugee and displaced populations, who are too often overlooked when it comes to basic health care. This obviously becomes all the more important as we plan to rollout COVID-19 vaccines worldwide; we cannot allow these populations to miss out on what could be one of our best routes out of this pandemic. That’s why we’re delighted to partner with IOM, to help provide a healthier future to some of the most vulnerable people on earth.”

“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools we have to keep people on the move, the communities they leave behind and the communities they join as safe and healthy as possible,” stressed IOM Director General António Vitorino. “This reinforced partnership will be critical in helping IOM achieve just that and contribute tangibly to the realization of true universal health coverage.”

The agreement signed by the two organizations focuses on reaching missed communities in humanitarian and emergency settings with vaccination and support routine immunization through engagement in primary health care systems. The partnership also aims to boost advocacy for the prioritization of vulnerable populations, support operational and policy assistance and facilitate technical collaboration. Specifically, the memorandum of understanding seeks to facilitate collaboration on ensuring the inclusion of migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in governments’ COVID-19 responses, in particular vaccination efforts.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 822 million children – and prevented more than 14 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. Gavi has already been working with IOM in South Sudan since 2019 to ensure vaccinations reached hard-to-reach populations throughout the country.

For decades, hand in hand with its partners, IOM has been a key player in global efforts to ensure that migrants and other people on the move have proper access to vaccines across 80 countries. In 2019, more than 380,000 children under the age of five were vaccinated against polio and/or measles in emergency settings and, as part of IOM’s pre-migration health services, over 445,800 vaccination doses were administered to close to 181,350 migrants and refugees in the process of migration. In all of its migration health assessment centres, the Organization manages a robust vaccine distribution and storage system, with staff continuously trained and up-to-date with international standards.

“For the distribution of any potential COVID-19 vaccine to be as fair and equitable as possible, IOM will be contributing its health expertise, data and other technical capacities based on its vast experience working with migrants and forcibly displaced persons,” said Director General Vitorino. “It is critical for everyone’s well-being not to leave the most at-risk behind.”

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IOM assists border control on route linking Ethiopia, Kenya

IOM has helped to establish a new Border Control Post between Ethiopia and Kenya. Photo: Rahel Negussie/IOM

Addis Ababa – Ethiopia, Africa’s second largest country (by population) after Nigeria, is also one of the continent’s largest sources of international migrants.

Along its vast national circumference –some 5,311 kilometres, connecting Ethiopia to Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia– government control posts are limited. Lack of adequate staffing and modern technology impedes proper migration management, a matter of concern for national governments as well as for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At the start of this new year, IOM has helped open a new Border Control Post (BCP) between Ethiopia and Kenya. The post, at Neprumus in Ethiopia’s Dasenech district, straddles one of the 830-kilometer Ethiopia-Kenya frontier’s most frequented migratory routes, alongside a major route for Ethiopian migrants trying to reach South Africa. Ethiopians normally pass through Kenya into Tanzania, then travel further south.

READ  Almost 400 migrants relocated from Italy since September

In March 2020, at least 60 Ethiopian irregular migrants were killed after being trapped in a lorry along this route. Hence, the urgent need for better and improved border control posts in the region.

“Supporting the establishment of modern and efficient BCPs will facilitate safe and orderly migration of citizens, enhance the relationship between bordering countries, provide protection, and increase the political and socio-economic stability between Ethiopia and Kenya,” explained Kederalah Idris, IOM’s Better Migration Management (BMM) Project Officer.

IOM is also supporting Ethiopia’s Immigration, Nationality, and Vital Events Agency (INVEA) with training to enhance the capacity of immigration officers, and at the same time supplying infrastructure and office equipment, computers, and generators to establish new border control posts.

“Strengthening BCP will play a great role in facilitating safe movement of community members to neighbouring Kenya and will create job opportunities for the community. In addition, it will have a big contribution in facilitating regular migration, while monitoring irregular movements,” said INVEA Director-General, Mujib Jemal, during his opening speech. He also recognized IOM and the zonal administration’s efforts in facilitating the opening of the BCP.

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At stake is more than improved border efficiency. IOM sees hope for improved trade benefiting the regional economy and raising livelihoods for some 48,000 people living in the Dasenech District.

Health checks are also being integrated into the BCP, which is a timely development given that COVID-19 continues to affect the nation. As of 18 January, there has been 131,546 confirmed cases in Ethiopia leading to 2,033 deaths. Against this COVID-19 backdrop, IOM looks forward to these new controls reducing mobility restrictions and facilitating movement of goods, services and skills. Beyond commerce, IOM also views BCPs as vital for protecting people from falling prey to human smugglers and traffickers.

Plans are to open more BCPs in the Pagag, Kurmuk, and Fefrer border towns in Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz, and Somali regions, bordering South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia respectively.

During the inauguration attended by representatives from IOM and senior officials from INVEA, IOM Ethiopia received a ‘Certificate of Recognition’ from the Ethiopian authorities for the support to strengthening Ethiopia’s border management and control efforts.

READ  Libya: New evidence shows refugees and migrants trapped in horrific cycle of abuses

The establishment of this important BCP is supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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Amid 2020 pandemic IOM supported over 2,500 migrants with voluntary return from Greece

Dudu and his family taking some selfie pictures before departing to Georgia. Photo: Konstantina Mintzoli/IOM
A family from Iraq receiving transportation assistance from IOM to the airport in Athens. Photo: Konstantina Mintzoli/IOM

Athens – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported the voluntary return of some 2,565 people from Greece to their home countries in 2020, in coordination with the Greek authorities and respective countries’ diplomatic representatives.

Amid hardships and challenges induced by COVID-19 in the past year—including mobility restrictions and closed borders—many migrants living in Greece expressed interest in returning voluntarily to their home countries.

“It is extremely important to be able to continue offering the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration support during this challenging period, as for many migrants, COVID-19 posed additional challenges to their stay in the EU,” explained Gianluca Rocco, Chief of the IOM Mission in Greece.

The 2,565 Returnees from Greece through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme originated from 46 countries, with the largest contingent (734 migrants) coming from Pakistan. This was followed by Georgia (529 migrants), Iraq (489), Afghanistan (188) and Iran (163). Thirty per cent of migrants assisted were males between the ages of 22 and 29.

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The number of returns fluctuated throughout 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, from 868 in the first quarter to 300 per month at the end of the year.  Since launched in Greece in 2010, IOM’s AVRR programme has assisted more than 50,000 people to voluntarily return to their home countries.

In 2020, IOM developed initiatives to overcome challenges, mitigate negative impact on migrants and ensure that Ministry of Health protocols were applied to all without discrimination. IOM medical teams provided assessments and medical examinations, including COVID-19 testing. In addition, relevant information was communicated through online outreach activities, and the dissemination of leaflets and posters to migrant communities. In parallel, helplines operating in 13 languages supported remote counselling as needed.

“We worked intensively with the Greek authorities and the Embassies of countries of origin to develop new cooperation mechanisms to overcome mobility restrictions and make the returns possible, particularly for the most vulnerable,” said IOM’s Rocco.

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IOM Greece also established an Online Scheduling Appointment (OSA) platform through which potential beneficiaries were able to book counselling appointments online.

When commercial flights were not available, IOM organized charter flights to Georgia and Iraq for 433 people in total in close collaboration with all relevant actors in Greece and the two destination countries.

Prior to their departure from Greece, migrants who applied for AVRR had the opportunity to access temporary accommodation facilities including the Open Centre for migrants (OCAVRR) in Athens.  IOM also provided a cash grant to cover returnees’ initial basic expenses after their departure.

Upon return, 1,008 migrants who qualified under the programme for in-kind reintegration assistance were able to use the support to set up small businesses (individually or in partnership), training programmes, temporary accommodation, job placements, medical support and material assistance.

IOM reiterates the importance of promoting the systematic inclusion of reintegration assistance as a force for stability in communities of return and as a bridge between migrant return and sustainable development.

READ  13 stranded Nigerians return from Germany, Canada, France

Download here for a snapshot view of the programme’s main 2020 highlights.

The project “The implementation of assisted voluntary returns including reintegration measures and operation of Open Center in the Prefecture of Attica for applicants of voluntary return (AVRR/OCAVRR)” is 75 per cent  co-funded by European Funds (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund) and 25 per cent by Greek National Funds.

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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

READ  Almost 400 migrants relocated from Italy since September

“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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