• Dhanabara Kohkaew | Media and Communications Assistant
IOM supported migrants in Samut Sakhon Province, Thailand to obtain Migrant Health Insurance Cards. IOM 2023/Dhanabara Kohkaew

Thailand - Samut Sakhon Province, central Thailand, is home to over 320,000 registered migrant workers from Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar.

Despite making up nearly half of the workforce in the province, these migrants often face barriers in accessing healthcare services—such as lack of information, language and cultural barriers, leaving them vulnerable to health risks and burdensome medical expenses.

“I was diagnosed with heart disease and pulmonary edema in 2019,” recounted Uncle Mueang*, a migrant worker from Yangon, Myanmar. “I couldn’t afford the treatment with my factory job salary, nor did I have any health insurance. My family supported me in covering the costs of my initial treatment."

Lacking the health coverage to continue his treatment, Uncle Mueang reached out to his friends who introduced him to the Migrant Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS). They put him in touch with a local association that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) partnered with to promote migrants’ coverage under the national public health insurance schemes for better access to healthcare services. Under this partnership, IOM provided financial support to vulnerable migrants like Uncle Mueang with urgent health needs, to enroll in the health insurance schemes.

“I never knew migrants could get insured,” said Uncle Mueang*. “With the Migrant Health Insurance Card, I can now receive hospital treatment for my heart condition.”

Uncle Mueang, a Myanmar migrant worker who enrolled in the Migrant Health Insurance Scheme which helped relieve him of the financial burden incurred from his treatment. IOM 2023/Dhanabara KOHKAEW

A few feet apart from Uncle Mueang’s house, lives Mai, another Myanmar migrant worker whose journey began in Thailand over 20 years ago. Her life in Thailand took a tragic turn last year when she lost both her legs in a bike accident while travelling home from work.

Realizing her employer hadn’t enrolled her in the Social Security Fund, she had to pay for the emergency medical operation using the savings she and her husband had put together.

“I woke up realizing I could no longer feel my legs,” shared Mai. “While I was still in the hospital, a Migrant Health Volunteer approached me. He connected me with IOM, who have since supported every step of my recovery. Through their referrals and assistance, I will be receiving a prosthetic leg very soon, and will be able to walk again.”

With a smile on her face, Mai added, “I am very grateful and happy that I will finally be able to get back on my feet and go to work.”

IOM’s Migration Health Unit visiting a small migrant community in Samut Sakhon who has been supported by the Migrant Health Insurance Scheme. IOM 2023/Dhanabara KOHKAEW

Kaya, a new mother and migrant worker from Myanmar, Kaya also shares the same sentiment as Mai as she recounts her pregnancy journey. “While I was pregnant, I stopped going for medical checkups because I didn’t have any money,” explained Kaya. “After obtaining the Migrant Health Insurance Card, I was able to access proper treatment and safely deliver my baby.”

“I also received diapers and baby food that further aided me in taking care of my baby,” Kaya hushed as she picked up her baby daughter and lulled her to sleep.

Kaya delivered and took care of her newborn through Migrant Health Insurance Scheme. IOM 2023/ Dhanabara KOHKAEW

In close collaboration with Migrant Health Volunteers (MHVs), civil society partners and the local hospitals between February to June 2023, IOM directly supported 103 migrant workers in facilitating better access to healthcare services. Health coverage is one of the means to enhance their access to affordable and quality healthcare treatment.

“IOM has been working with the Royal Thai Government and partners to ensure the meaningful inclusion of migrants into the national health system in line with the Global Compact for Migration (GCM),” highlights Dr. Moemen Nader, IOM Thailand’s Migration Health Officer. “These joint efforts are central to achieving universal health coverage, regardless of one’s nationality or legal status.”

“The stories of migrants like Mueang, Mai and Kaya remind us that exclusion costs more than inclusion. Embracing inclusion is everyone’s duty and right. Only through collective efforts can we realize an inclusive society where migrants and their families have equal access to affordable and equitable health services,” adds Dr Nader.

IOM’s assistance to vulnerable migrants was made possible through the support from the Government of Japan.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.


This story was written by Dhanabara Kohkaew, Media and Communications Assistant at IOM Thailand.


Read this story in Thai Language