Djibouti Struggles to Meet Migrant Health Needs

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM Djibouti has contributed USD 85,000 to the Djiboutian Health Ministry to help local hospitals and clinics provide medical care to migrants from the Horn of Africa. The principal donor is CERF, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.

“We estimate that over 100,000 migrants transit this country every year,” said IOM Djibouti Chief of Mission Romaric N'Guessan. “Unfortunately, most of them cross in appalling conditions, often on foot. So, logically, they suffer terribly from dehydration and are exposed to all sorts of diseases.”

Almost 90 per cent are from Ethiopia and 10 per cent are from Somalia and most hope to reach Saudi Arabia in search of jobs, N'Guessan added.

As more migrants from the Horn of Africa cross Djibouti's borders as irregular migrants, they are putting a growing strain on local health facilities.

Many arrive in dire condition, posing humanitarian challenges for the local authorities, particularly in cities located along the migratory corridor, including Dikhil, Tadjourah and Obock. “When migrants need medical attention, hospitals usually do not have enough medicine,” said N'Guessan.

Djibouti health policy allows everyone, including migrants, to access local health facilities. But funding of health services is determined on a per capita basis by the government census, which does not include migrants.

Consequently, if large numbers of migrants need medical assistance, hospitals and clinics on the migration route are forced to operate beyond their normal capacity.

IOM's contribution to the Ministry of Health was the second this year. In March it donated another USD 68,000 worth of drugs for use in health centres on the migration route, in response to a government request.

IOM also trains health staff to identify migrants' needs and has constructed 23 wells along migrant routes, with 13 more under construction, to reduce the risks from dehydration.

Growing numbers of migrants from the Horn of Africa are dying on the migratory route through Djibouti and Yemen to the Middle East, according to N'Guessan. Through the first 10 months of 2014, IOM and UNHCR recorded 241 migrants as dead or missing – up from just 15 in 2013, he notes.