We live in a world with more displaced people than ever before. From war and persecution to drought and famine, millions have been forced to flee their homes. Along with shelter and protection, displaced populations have significant health needs. Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducted an annual review of health coverage of 37 key refugee operations across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The review analyzed data on general health status; reproductive health; HIV; nutrition and food security; and water, sanitation and hygiene.
The review found good news in the area of reproductive health. Nine out of ten deliveries in refugee camps were conducted by a skilled health worker – a 25 percent increase from 2016. However, less than half of pregnant women in these regions had access to all four antenatal and three postnatal visits. UNHCR is planning to strengthen coverage and quality of these interventions.
Other areas saw similar improvements. There was strong measles vaccine coverage throughout all UNHCR operations, increasing 15 percent from 2016. Additionally, over 10,000 refugees were enrolled in HIV treatment.
The results from this review were largely positive, however, there is still concern particularly related to malnutrition. Stunting and impaired growth of children could rapidly undermine other health gains and must be addressed. More funding and resources are needed to ensure refugee populations have every opportunity to thrive.
photo credit: UNHCR