What health needs do displaced people face?
People who have been forced to flee can end up living temporarily or semi-permanently in a wide range of circumstances. They may be taken in to people’s homes, gather in a public building or be hiding in the bush; they may be absorbed into in an existing IDP or refugee camp, or informal housing on the outskirts of a city—or detained. The conditions may be crowded or unsanitary, and there may be insufficient food and drinking water. Unsurprisingly people’s health and wellbeing can suffer severely, all the more so if healthcare is out of reach. In hospitals, health centres and mobile clinics MSF can provide care at different levels to reduce people’s suffering and save lives.
Pregnant women, young children, people with chronic diseases and the elderly all need particular attention to avoid facing health complications. For example, many women and girls on the move will be of reproductive age: between 15 and 45 years old. MSF can help ensure they have access to contraception, or a safe place to deliver their baby, and provide support in the wake of sexual violence, or for mothers to care for their own children.
In camp situations, MSF teams see many patients with skin, parasitic and respiratory infections, especially children under five, who are also most at risk of infectious diseases such as measles, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. We may need to quickly establish a vaccination or preventive treatment campaign or dedicated treatment centres to address specific needs.
It is impossible for people to stay healthy without clean water and good quality sanitation, so these too are priority areas for MSF. Our WATSAN—water and sanitation—teams may focus on improving the water supply, sewage disposal, hospital waste management , equipment in our health facilities and/or infection control.
People forced to flee, especially due to armed conflict, may also be carrying serious wounds and physical and mental trauma. MSF has the expertise to provide surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation, and psychosocial support to help people find coping mechanisms despite the uncertainty of their future.