Group | Mobile Populations and Health

Our research on mobile populations started with research on health of mobile pastoralists in the Sahel and in Central Asia, notably also looking to see how human and livestock health services could work better together. Operational research on service provision is currently coupled with testing of mobile communication technology for health surveillance and response actions in humans and animals. Our work on priority health aspects and access to services of labour and seasonal migrants in Côte d’Ivoire, Vietnam and Peru is accompanied by policy reviews and consideration that both community and health provider perspectives are crucial to find new ways of health information and service provision.

Perspectives of Service Providers and Mobile Communities

We work across disciplines - health, social geography and social sciences and biologists - for better context-specific understanding of the main health issues involved for service providers and communities. Considering health service priorities led to, for example, joint human and animal vaccination services among mobile pastoralists or targeted services on reproductive health among female labor migrants in Vietnam.

Mobile pastoralists in Mongolia preparing to move

Health of Mobile Pastoralists in Asia and Africa

Mobile pastoralists in Africa and Asia are too often excluded from studies, surveillance systems and health programs. It is difficult for health services to include effective outreach with limited availability of financial and human resources. New integrated One Health services making use of available infrastructure from the health and veterinary sectors provide more inclusive services and allow people to maintain their mobile way of life to access available pastures with their livestock. Given that, for example, in Chad 20% of pastoralists regularly cross national borders, we increasingly seek regional approaches.

Health Districts Support in Yao and Danamadji in Chad

Pfizer Adult Vaccination

Brucellosis elimination Mongolia training

Labour migrants living in shared small rented apartments

Seasonal and Labour Migrants in Côte d’Ivoire and Vietnam

Doctors in Africa rarely ask about the recent travels of their patients – who are often quite mobile throughout Africa. Seasonal workers can remain undiagnosed after returning from focally endemic zones for diseases like human African sleeping sickness. Health insurance can facilitate flexible opening hours and responsive health services for labor migrants in many countries. Innovation in the provision of transferable patient cards for TB patients, as an example, is starting to show positive results for tracking and improving the health of mobile communities in Vietnam.



A seasonal migrant with leishmaniasis

Migrants in the Peruvian-Brazilian Border Districts

Many seasonal workers from the high altitude Andean region migrate to the tropical Amazonas in Peru and Brazil – for instance, to harvest Brazil nuts or mine gold. They set up camps in the middle of the rainforest, but are usually unaware about health risk exposure. Unprotected migrant workers are exposed to mosquitoes carrying malaria or sandflies transmitting diseases like leishmaniasis. In collaboration with anthropologists, epidemiologists, microbiologists and entomologists, we have monitored the spread of disease and how to increase personal protection of migrants.