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Migrant workers vulnerable to infection, need a robust response: AIIMS expert

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Migrant workers are living in conditions conducive for transmission of coronavirus infection, which also deeply disturb their psychological health, social integrity and well-being amid the ongoing lockdown due to the pandemic.

Speaking to IANS, Dr Ashish Pakhre, a senior psychiatrist from AIIMS, said the debilitating effect of pandemic on the psychosocial vulnerabilities of migrants and their families needs to be addressed adequately.

“There are chances that migrants do not get valid and correct information about the pandemic such as transmission risks, treatment and action plan being considered. Considering rampant flow of misinformation and rumours on social media, it is likely that they could be influenced badly and thus suffer more”, said Pakhre.

He also called for gender sensitive steps while developing a response.

Migrants face uncertainty on food availability and financial security — reasons for tremendous worries in this vulnerable population. Dr Pakhre said that designing public response will need urgency because infection among migrants will most likely spread quickly and they will have difficulty in accessing immediate healthcare facilities. He emphasized that the language used and communication methods should communicate the seriousness of the pandemic and its implications.

“It is crucial that multiple local languages used by migrants, their community leaders and modes of communications are utilized to ensure delivery of accurate information. During such times of rapid administrative and massive socio-environmental changes, it is essential that their human rights are not violated”, said Dr Pakhre.

On the inter-linked socio-environmental changes due to lockdown, which is likely to compromise the mental health of migrants, he said there is an enormous need to protect and strengthen the psychosocial well-being of migrants given their living conditions, vulnerabilities and limited resources.

“There is a need to have a public health response in a coordinated manner which addresses the special needs, issues and concerns of vulnerable population such as the migrant workers”, he added.

The cultural differences, loss of social status, risk of discrimination, separation from family in times of unpredictable stress, financial concerns, and employment loss due to economic crisis will be potential risk factors affecting their mental health.

“It is critically important that healthcare services should not have cultural and language barriers and should be migrant-inclusive, and easily accessible. The inclusion of migrant’s issues in designing the response to Covid pandemic is necessary at all levels of health care response,” said Dr Pakhre.

He said employers should take a supportive role at this time of the crisis, and help them to access counselling services and guide them in seeking psychological help.

(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at sumit.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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