Being a migrant woman during disasters

In March 2023, CRIMEDIM launched a new research project titled Being a Migrant Woman During Disasters: A Mixed-method Study Exploring Multidimensional Inequalities During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Northern Italy, which is funded by Fondazione Cariplo (111,300€) and will be concluded in August 2024.

This project stems from the awareness that disasters have an unequal impact on the population. During the COVID-19 pandemic migrants and women were at increased risk of adverse consequences as separate groups. Migrants were more likely to receive late diagnosis and to be hospitalized, while women experienced worse socioeconomic impact, faced access constraints to sexual and reproductive care, and were disproportionately affected by gender-based violence.

Because of the intersection of these two vulnerability factors, namely being a migrant and a woman, migrant women were supposedly more vulnerable compared to migrant men and non-migrant women. Therefore, this project aims to explore inequalities experienced by migrant women during the pandemic in the metropolitan area of Milan with regard to access to healthcare and socio-sanitary services.

Since for migrant women Emergency Departments and Non-Governmental Organizations typically are the first point of contact with the healthcare system, especially during disasters, these may represent an overlooked source of information about this population health. Therefore, three organizations based in Milan were identified to inform our project: the emergency department of “Luigi Sacco” hospital and the two NGOs: EMERGENCY and DARE NGO.

The project has two main phases: a quantitative and a qualitative one. The first phase consists of a data analysis from the databases of EMERGENCY and of the emergency department of Sacco Hospital to understand how migrant women’s health-seeking behavior and health conditions changed during the pandemic. The second phase involves interviews to collect migrant women’s first-hand experiences as well as those of a pool of stakeholders who directly or indirectly served this group during the pandemic.

The findings of this project will allow policymakers and health providers to anticipate migrant women’s healthcare needs, both in normal times and during disasters, and to advance the limited scientific literature about migrant women’s vulnerability in the context of a disaster.

Research team and contacts

Monica Trentin, Martina Valente, Giulia Facci