The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is a region associated with both high rates of population mobility – mostly associated with movement within and across national borders to access improved livelihood opportunities – and a high prevalence of communicable diseases, notably HIV and tuberculosis.
Migration is acknowledged to be a central determinant of health and the bidirectional nature of this relationship – with health influencing migration – is increasingly recognised. In spite of this, policy, programmatic and health system responses to health and wellbeing within the SADC region fail to engage with the movement of people.
Key to this failure is that discussions related to the development of responses to population mobility and health are inherently political, often fuelled by anti-foreigner sentiments and unsupported claims negatively associating migrants with the spread of communicable diseases.
Research shows that evidence-informed responses are lacking and current health responses – including communicable disease control programmes – will continue to struggle unless the movement of people is considered.
There is an urgent need to better understand the politics of policy making as it relates to migration and health within the SADC region which should, in turn, inform the development of improved ways for generating and communicating knowledge on migration and health. Ultimately, this should lead to the development of evidence-informed migration and health policies and progamming within SADC. However, knowledge production and its application is – in itself – a political process, influenced by multiple factors associated with power and positionality.
Involving a series of unique research and public engagement projects, the Migration and Health Project Southern Africa (maHp) aims to explore (and evaluate) ways to generate and communicate knowledge in order to improve responses to migration, health and well-being in the SADC region. Multiple disciplinary perspectives, mixed method approaches, and the involvement of various stakeholders – including migrants themselves – are central.