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On International Migrants Day, Nepal promotes safe migration

January 22, 2014

Last month, the world commemorated International Migrants Day. The 2013 theme, “Migrant Well-Being is Development,” focused on the importance of migrant laborers as a key requisite for human development.

Saath-Saath Project outreach worker promotes dual method use.For Nepal, International Migrants Day provided an opportunity to address challenges related to the nation’s high migration rate. According to Nepal’s Department of Foreign Employment, around 1,700 Nepali individuals travel abroad daily in search of a job. The remittance they earn is now a major contributor to Nepal’s overall gross domestic product (GDP). It has also resulted in health-related risks. Nepal’s National Centre for AIDS and STD Control has categorized migrant workers and their spouses among the key populations susceptible to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These populations also show low uptake of family planning and low use of the dual method (condom and a family planning method) of protection from HIV, STIs and pregnancies.

Saath-Saath Project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and its local nongovernmental organization partners, used International Migrants Day as a platform for sensitizing migrant communities about the importance of dual method use in its four migrant-project districts: Bara, Kapilvastu, Nawalparasi and Palpa.

Under the leadership of local government agencies, Saath-Saath Project and other local stakeholders organized multiple events to commemorate this important day. These events drew the participation of the respective districts’ senior government officials, including the Local Development Officer and Chief District Officer. They helped to reinforce the importance of the day and underscore the need for migrant laborers to adopt healthy and safe behaviors to protect themselves and their families from potential health risks, especially when they are working abroad.

Local community interactions and street dramas further stressed the benefits of dual method use. The discussions also focused on the pervasive stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV. Information dissemination booths were set up at the Indo-Nepal border in Bara district to provide pre-departure sessions to migrant workers, and informational materials were provided at the end of the sessions.