Via The Lancet, an editorial: World Refugee Day: caring for the forcibly displaced.
Last week, after jihadist groups took over the second-largest city in Iraq, Mosul, an estimated 300 000 people were forced to leave their homes. Increasing numbers of people are bereft of food, water, or medical care as the conflict continues. WHO expects the health situation to deteriorate because of the complications of bringing human resources and logistics to affected areas.
The number of refugees is growing worldwide. 6·5 million people were internally displaced in Syria by the end of last year, with 2·5 million refugees having fled to surrounding countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Conflicts in Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Eritrea have also left thousands of people displaced. Worldwide, more than 50 million people are refugees, asylum-seekers, or have been internally displaced.
June 20, World Refugee Day, was a day to reflect on, among other things, the health problems refugees and their host countries face. Control of infectious diseases is still an urgent need, but the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases represents an enormous challenge. Many of the newly displaced populations come from middle-income countries and have pre-existing disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
These chronic conditions bring with them other health issues to consider, including funding (they may require expensive treatments), continuity of care, and prevention. Moreover, treatment of non-communicable diseases in the refugee population puts extra pressures on existing health systems.
Host countries are often middle-income nations, struggling not only with their own population health needs, but also with this huge influx of migrants. Access to mental health and reproductive health care is also essential, and often impeded.
Ensuring a haven for refugees will not be enough to tackle effectively what is now, according to the UN Refugee Agency, the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. A long-term innovative strategy is needed to provide appropriate care for this changing and unfortunately growing population.