Upcoming Special Sections

All issues include general papers in addition to Special Sections



This year Health and Human Rights is celebrating its 30th anniversary and we are inviting commentaries to commemorate this achievement. As Jonathan Mann wrote in his introduction to the first issue, “Only with the passage of several years will this newborn’s relationship to the intellectual and pragmatic work of the world become evident.”  We believe 2024 is an excellent time to examine the intellectual and pragmatic impact of the journal.

We are inviting commentaries on specific papers – to reflect on the paper’s framing of the nascent field of health and human rights, to comment on subsequent developments, and perhaps to consider the relevance of that paper to our present context and to muse about where the future of human rights will be.

In our June 2024 issue we published a collection of initial commentaries from authors of the first volume to provide an overview of our history, and how health and human rights scholarship has evolved and is contributing to the development of both law and practice in achieving greater equity in global health.

We now seek ongoing commentaries of about 1200-2000 words.

Submission details

Questions about this special section can be directed to Carmel Williams, williams@hsph.harvard.edu.



Special section on Distress Migration and the Right to Health

Guest Editors: Stefano Angeleri and Jacqueline Bhabha

Over the last two decades, the complex relationship between health and migration has attracted both scholarly and policy attention.[1] Though all people’s health and well-being are influenced by social, structural, and political factors, this is particularly true for distress migrants forced to leave their homes and embark on international migration, enduring harsh physical, emotional, and legal consequences in the process. The concept of distress migration refers to migration “that stems from desperation, vulnerability, and need, from living circumstances that are experienced as unbearable or deeply unsatisfactory and that precipitate serious obstacles to a reasonable or tolerable life”.[2] Distress migrants experience migration as a necessary exit route, a forced decision to secure a life worth living. The conditions associated with this forced exit are key determinants of health.[3]

Migrants who escape from conflict or destitution may experience improvements in their health. But they may also experience the opposite, particularly if they encounter discrimination, stigmatization, or legal barriers that interfere with their sense of well-being and impede their access to health care.

For instance, harsh immigration policies (including the use of push-backs, deportation, or detention) may not only jeopardise peoples’ right to seek asylum and protection but their ability to secure appropriate health care. The circumstances of African and Asian distress migrants held in Libya’s detention camps are a case in point.[4] Other egregious examples include the enduring displacement and dispossession of Palestinians (67% of whom are refugees), the hazards migrant children face when they are smuggled through the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama, and the long-standing absence of quality health care for Rohingya refugees confined to overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.[5]

This special section on distress migration and the right to health will include papers that examine the relationships between health care, social justice, human rights and migration. Submissions may include research and analysis that address:

  • Human rights violations and their impact on the physical and mental health rights of people on the move (e.g. trafficking, detention, children’s rights violations, discrimination related to migration status)
  • The social and structural determinants of the health of migrants, refugees, and displaced populations as health and human rights issues
  • Case studies (thematic or country-based) of institutional or legal practices, individual campaigns or social movements that have generated progressive developments for migrants previously denied the right to health
  • Health care systems, whether state based or NGO-led, and their impact on migrant health rights
  • Migrant health inequalities generated by laws, policies, and practice
  • Economic, ethical, legal, and public health arguments underlying right to health obligations towards migrants and refugees
  • Equality, equity, dignity, agency as components of the right to health of migrants
  • The role and limitations of market or commercial approaches in fulfilling the right to health of vulnerable people, including undocumented migrants, stateless people, and asylum seekers
  • The potential of interdisciplinary research in advancing knowledge in the field distress migration and the right to health.

Submission details

  • Papers and perspective essays must be submitted by 30 April 2024.
  • Full papers have a maximum word length of 7,000 words, including references. We also invite Perspective Essays of up to 3,000 words, including references, and Viewpoints of between 900-1,500 words, including references, on any of these topics.
  • Author guidelines are available here.

Questions about this special section can be directed to Stefano Angeleri, sangeleri@hsph.harvard.edu, or Jacqueline Bhabha, jbhabha@hsph.harvard.edu, or Carmel Williams, williams@hsph.harvard.edu.

[1] I. Abubakar et al., “The UCL–Lancet Commission on Migration and Health: the health of a world on the move”, The Lancet Commissions, 2018, 392:10164, pp. 2606-2654: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32114-7/fulltext#seccestitle10; World Health Organization, World report on the health of refugees and migrants, 2022: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240054462.

[2] J. Bhabha, Can We Solve the Migration Crisis? (Polity Press, 2018) 65.

[3] A. Davies, A. Basten, and C. Frattini, “Migration: A Social Determinant of the Health of Migrants” IOM – Background paper, 2009: https://migrationhealthresearch.iom.int/migration-social-determinant-health-migrants

[4] Human Rights Council, “Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya – Report”,  2023, A/HRC/52/833: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/03/libya-urgent-action-needed-remedy-deteriorating-human-rights-situation-un

[5] UNICEF, “Record number of children crossing the Darien Gap towards the US this year”, press release, 18 November 2022: https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/press-releases/record-number-of-children-crossing-darien-gap-towards-us-this-year; B. Bouquet, R. Muhareb, and R. Smith, “’It’s Not Whatever, Because This Is Where the Problem Starts”: Racialized Strategies of Elimination as Determinants of Health in Palestine,” Health and Human Rights Journal, 2022, 24(2), pp. 237-254; UNICEF, “Record number of children crossing the Darien Gap towards the US this year”, press release, 18 November 2022: https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/press-releases/record-number-of-children-crossing-darien-gap-towards-us-this-year; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), “Funding for Rohingya must increase as medical needs surge in camps”, 23 August 2023: https://www.msf.org/bangladesh-funding-rohingya-must-increase-medical-needs-surge-camps.