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About this event

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is associated with high levels of population mobility, a high prevalence of communicable diseases – notably HIV and TB - and increasing urban populations yet appropriate urban health responses are lacking.  The city of Johannesburg, South Africa, presents a unique space within which to explore the complex relationship between migration and mobility, urban health and inequality within SADC.  Johannesburg is one of the most unequal cities globally and presents a complex web of interlinked urban health challenges, including HIV and TB.  Internal South African migrants and cross-border migrants from elsewhere in the region contribute to a growing population of the ‘urban poor’ in the city; many reside in unsafe, substandard, informal housing in the central-city and periphery, are reliant on fragile livelihood activities, and face challenges in accessing basic services – including public healthcare.

Drawing from on-going research exploring regional (SADC) and local (Johannesburg) responses to migration and health, a social determinants of health lens is applied to unpack the lived experiences of diverse migrant groups in Johannesburg.  These experiences are assessed in relation to (currently limited) governance responses to migration and health in the city, including the role of various spheres of government – including local government and regional bodies, and non-governmental actors.  Regional responses to migration and health in urban contexts are lacking.  It is clear that migrant residents in the city are often hidden and marginalised, and experience an urban health penalty, including increased risks of acquiring HIV and TB.  Pro-poor policy and programme responses are urgently needed to improve their living and working conditions in the city, to address inequality and associated inequities in health, and to facilitate continuity of treatment for those that move.  It is important that both research and programmatic responses engage with the heterogeneity of migrant groups in the region and in the city.  There is an urgent need for improved multi-level and intersectoral action to improve the lived experiences of migrants in the city.  Improved responses that engage with the concept of healthy urban governance are required.  Local government is urged to (1) work with multiple stakeholders – including migrants themselves – to unpack the complexity of lived experiences in the city, (2) apply its developmental mandate to leverage intersectoral and multi-level action to address urban health, migration and inequality in Johannesburg; and (3) motivate national government to engage in developing regional responses to migration, urbanisation and health.

About this speaker

Jo Vearey is a Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand and holds a Senior Fellowship at the Centre for Peace, Development and Democracy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.  With a commitment to social justice and the development of pro-poor policy responses, Jo's current research explores international, regional, national and local responses to migration, health, and urban vulnerabilities.  Her research interests focus on urban health, public health, migration and health, the social determinants of health, HIV, and sex work.  She has published articles in a wide range of international peer-reviewed journals and produced several chapters for edited book collections.

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