Since 1950 World Health Day has been celebrated on the 7th of April of each year, with the objective of raising global awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization (WHO). The theme selected by WHO for 2004 is Road Safety. See the official WHO World Health Day 2004 page for full information.
Injury and death through transport accidents adds to the already high health risks and increased mortality rates facing refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs). These populations are often in transit. Fleeing an emergency in haste, en masse, travelling in overloaded vehicles, or as pedestrians, or attempting to move clandestinely (by moving at night or attempting hazardous border crossing points or trafficking routes) increases their risks on these journeys.
Further, these populations may have little or no medical access, nor a secure home or income whilst they try to recovery from any injuries or illnesses suffered.
However, basic issues such as protection against disease, access to clean water, sanitary conditions of refugee camps, etc. play a more important overall health role for refugees/IDPs. In assisting and protecting these populations a strong emphasis on a Primary Health Care (PHC) strategy focusing on the vital sectors of water, food, sanitation, shelter and physical planning is considered essential, alongside provision of preventive and basic curative health services.
"In an emergency, many refugees will be exposed to insecurity, poor shelter, overcrowding, lack of sufficient safe water, inadequate sanitation, inadequate or inappropriate food supplies and a possible lack of immunity to the diseases of the new environment. Furthermore, on arrival, refugees may already be in a debilitated state from disease, malnutrition, hunger, fatigue, harassment, physical violence and grief. Poverty, powerlessness and social instability, conditions that often prevail for refugees, can also contribute to increased sexual violence and spread of sexually transmitted diseases including the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)." UNHCR Handbook for Emergencies (PDF file 2305 KB)
This resource page guides users to background documents, web resources and relevant organizations selected from Forced Migration Online (FMO) that expand further on this important topic.
- Roberts, Bayard, “FMO research guide: Forced Migration and Public health” (FMO, Apr. 2004)
- Other related FMO resource pages include: Reproductive Health and Food pages
- Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, 2004 edition revised edition handbook. Sphere Project. Chapter 5: Health chapter (PDF file 443 KB)
Selected full-text documents (for more, search in the Digital Library)
- Coninx, Rudi. 1989. "Essential drugs: a cornerstone to refugee health care." Disasters 13(4):361-364.
- ECRE Task Force on Integration. 1999. "Health: good practice guide on the integration of refugees in the European Union."
- GCMHP. 1997. "Gaza Community Mental Health Programme third international conference: health and human rights", 13-15 October 1997, Gaza, Palestine.
- Macrae, Joanna. 1996. "Purity or political engagement? Issues in food and health security interventions in conflict situations."
- Noji, Eric K. and Michael J. Toole. 1997. "The historical development of public health responses to disasters." Disasters 21(4): 366-376.
- van Willigen, Loes. 1992. "A (short) review of literature on the health problems of refugees."
Selected web-based information resources (for more, search the FMO website)
- Health (AlertNet)
- Health and human rights info (International Society for Health and Human Rights)
- Health for Asylum Seekers and Refugees Portal (HARP)
- Health professional network (Amnesty International)
- Medical consequences of conflict (BMJ)
- Examining asylum seekers: a health professional's guide to medical and psychological evaluations of torture (Physicians for Human Rights)
- Famine-affected, refugee, and displaced populations: recommendations for public health issues (Centers for Disease Control)
- Health library for disasters (WHO, PAHO)
- Public health guide for emergencies (IFRC)
- UNHCR health, food & nutrition toolkit (UNHCR)
Contact details for relevant organizations (for more, search in the Organizations Directory)
- Center for International Health and Cooperation (CIHC)
- Centre for Environmental Health Engineering (CEHE)
- Centre for International Health Studies (CIHS)
- François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights
- Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP)
- Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC) Affecting the Health of Women and Children
- International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch (IERHB) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Management Sciences for Health
- Médecins du monde
- Merlin - Medical Emergency Relief International
- OMEGA Health Care Centre Graz
- Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS)
- Partners in Health (PIH)
- United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, WHO
- WHO - Health Action in Crises (HAC)