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07 Jun 2023

“We Need to Sustain Migrant Health Forums to Infinity and Beyond”

A Review of the Effectiveness and Sustainability of Migrant Health Forums Established by IOM and Government Stakeholders in South Africa

Multisectoral coordination mechanisms are some of the strategies that have been found effective in promoting the health of migrants and their host communities, while at the same time strengthening collaboration and coordination among stakeholders. Since 2008, IOM has supported the establishment of migrant health forums (MHFs) across South Africa, in places where migration and health projects are being implemented – namely, Johannesburg, Vhembe District, Mopani District and Ehlanzeni District.

Considering the critical role that MHFs can play in promoting multisectoral coordination and collaboration, IOM South Africa commissioned an assessment in 2022 to understand how to better strengthen the effectiveness and sustainability of the MHFs. The assessment utilized a qualitative approach that involved a desk review and semi-structured interviews with key informants from the Government, civil society organizations and IOM. 

A qualitative approach consisting of desk research and semi-structured interviews was utilized to conduct the review. Key informants from the Government, civil society and IOM were interviewed to explore the structure and formation of the MHFs, funding mechanisms and sustainability approaches.

The findings of the assessment reveal that MHFs are able to:

  1. Promote better understanding of migration and health among stakeholders by creating opportunities for them to share experiences and lessons;
  2. Support stakeholders in strengthening coordination and collaboration among partners working in the area of migration and health;
  3. Create a hub for health and non-health stakeholders to deliberate on the impacts (both positive and negative) of migration on the health of migrants and their host communities;
  4. Serve as dialogue spaces that bridged research and advocacy gaps through the dissemination of research findings to influence policy reform and implementation.

The review found that the sustainability of MHFs is feasible if they are government-led, issue-specific and embedded within coordination structures at all levels of policy implementation. It is clear that MHFs are integral structures that can promote the appreciation of dialogue and action on migration and health. It is recommended that MHFs be mandated to the relevant spheres of government that can direct relevant departments to act as required.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Figures, text boxes and tables
  • Acronyms
  • Key terms
  • Executive summary
  • 1. Migration and health: From global to local
    • 1.1. Overview of initiatives addressing migration health
    • 1.2. Universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals
    • 1.3. Development and implementation of effective responses
    • 1.4. Locating the niche of migrant health forums in South Africa
  • 2. Methodology
    • 2.1. Research approach and objectives
    • 2.2. Methodology
      • 2.1.1. Desk review
      • 2.1.2. Key informant interviews
    • 2.3. Ethical considerations and limitations
      • 2.3.1. Research limitations
    • 2.4. Analysis 
  • 3. Key findings: Development of migrant health forums
    • 3.1. Developmental contexts of South African migrant health forums
    • 3.2. IOM-funded programmes that established migrant health forums in East and Southern Africa
    • 3.3. Key drivers and contexts
      • 3.3.1. Johannesburg Migrant Health Forum
      • 3.3.2. Limpopo Province: Mopani, Vhembe and Waterberg
      • 3.3.3. Summary of the establishment of the migrant health forums
  • 4. Key findings: Discussion and analyses
    • 4.1. Migrant health forums are a unique space for raising awareness and supporting networking and alliance-building in the area of migration health
      • 4.1.1. Filling the gaps
      • 4.1.2. Creating space to learn and engage
    • 4.2. The inclusion of and commitment from government departments are central to sustaining migrant health forums
      • 4.2.1. Government assistance for interventions and sustainability
      • 4.2.2. Government absence limiting the role and lifespan of migrant health forums
    • 4.3. Migrant health forums can play a role in bridging advocacy and research in the field  of migration health
    • 4.4. Migrant health forums can play a key role in improving collaboration and coordination  among stakeholders, including through IOM migration health programmes
      • 4.4.1. Improving coordination among stakeholders to avoid duplication of interventions
      • 4.4.2. Collaboration and coordination of partners through migrant health forums impact the help-and health-seeking behaviours of migrants
    • 4.5. The sustainability of migrant health forums depends on funding and ownership, commitment and participation, and leadership and structure
      • 4.5.1. Funding and taking ownership
      • 4.5.2. Commitment and participation
      • 4.5.3. Leadership and structure
    • 4.6. A restrictive socioeconomic and political context, including prevailing anti-migrant sentiment, negatively impact the capacity of migrant health forums
      • 4.6.1. A lack of understanding and negative perceptions of migrants can pose obstacles  to achieving forum goals
    • 4.7. The sustainability and effectiveness of migrant health forums is impacted by limited action and the risk of becoming mere “talk shops”
  • 5. Conclusion and recommendations
    • 5.1. Conclusion
    • 5.2. Key recommendations
      • 5.2.1. Migrant health forums require multiple forms of investment to develop opportunities to act as strategic drivers of change
      • 5.2.2. Ambitions for migrant health forums must be balanced against investment and funding realities
      • 5.2.3. Should IOM determine that there is scope to invest in migrant health forums, a strategy to ensure they become owned by State structures, so that they would  be able to effect real change, will be key
      • 5.2.4. Migrant health forums require clear terms of reference and action plans
      • 5.2.5. Funding is necessary to establish a dedicated secretariat and implementation team for each MHF
      • 5.2.6. Migrant health forums require clear terms of reference and action plans
      • 5.2.7. Given the important role that migrant health forums can play in South Africa, currently inactive ones should be “reignited” or revived
      • 5.2.8. A regional approach to migrant health forums should be considered
  • Bibliography