Migration: Better travel safe than sorry

Refugees 2019

UNHCR set up the first camps in the Dadaab complex in 1991 to host up to 90,000 people. Today they host more than 463,000 refugees. © UNHCR/B.Bannon

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Wiktoria Izdebska, a 2nd year medical student of Medical University of Białystok, Poland. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The only stable thing about migration is that it began with a need of food and safety. Nowadays  reasons of migration are more various but definitely any less meaningfull. Once we cannot stop migration, what we could do is protect migrants’ health and safety as the Human Rights suggest.

The focus should remain on preventing diseases instead of directly treating them, but as it is an international issue unifying the efforts into a coherent system would be challenging, yet ultimately rewarding.

Poland is where I study and am engaged in IFMSA. Polish healthcare system is a stable one provided you are a citizen with access to public NHS insurance. Without the citizenship your insurance access is limited.Free health services abroad is a luxury exclusive to European Union citizensree health services abroad is a luxury exclusive to European Union citizens. The European Union Card of Health Insurance works both ways- if Poles migrate abroad to another EU country, this would be sufficient to get health access.

What can be improved in Poland? Definitely, I would rise awarness about prevention and travel preparation. I would organise a capaign to expand knowledge of the EUCI, that sometimes they need additional vaccinations  or buy private insurances in advanced. I would use social media, pick a young target group and try to make it as visually attractive as possible. So once we invest, we invest in the new generation, to create a a trend  that remains a stable change of a mindset.

Considering the situation of an imigrant, the issue is more time-taking. I would try advocating in Ministries for unifing migrant healthcare laws. This is not a fresh idea but I believe that this can be expanded to other countries, not just the EU ones. From the perspective of a medical student it is impossible to change it in our six-year-long medical course. However, if we start the disscusion and highlight the problem, there is a chance that in some year Heads of States of many countries would agree that the better health access we offer to imigrants, the higher is the living standard in the country.

Perhaps the idea of a „Better TRAVEL safe than sorry” capaign could expand if we use the forces of IFMSA. Once the trend brings visible results localy, we could try to implement this project in the entire Federation, in order to bringing an international change.

No matter where we come from, in the end we are all humans and we have a right to access  health. Migration is not just a controvercial subject but it is one’s hard decision. Therefore, it is crucial to help others get a safe space in the world, where one can be healthy, and that is why we should try to promote prevention. Changing the health system is hard and I would leave that for politians. Yet, as a future doctor, I would recommend to rather travel safe than sorry.

About the author

Wiktoria Izdebska is a 2nd year medical student of Medical University of Białystok, a member of IFMSA since first year of her studies, currently holding a position of LOME Assistant and Local Coordinator on Students Associations. Her hobbies are jazz and travelling. In her spare time she sails, swims and dances salsa. She does not know which medical specialty she would choose yet but is definitely willing to live a life in service to other peple, especially children. She believes that a creative idea and a hard-working team are enough to create the biggest projets and change the world.

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