Refugee Health Crisis and The Impact On Neighbouring Countries
Syria’s civil war has resulted in more than 4.3 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring and European countries, as well as, other millions who have seeked internal dislocation within the country. Health care concerns are one of the biggest threats to societies within this situation and providing healthcare services to refugees has been equally difficult, as refugee camps are usually overcrowded and accessibility to them is no simple task, even for international entities. Health systems for refugees are strained; and their basic requirements for living are greatly underfunded.
Due to poor waste management systems, vector-borne diseases are likely to spread by rodents, mosquitoes and ticks. It has been observed, whenever there has been a mass influx situation in the past, greater mortality rates have been seen. Malnutrition along with stress causes the immunity of the refugees to suffer and people fall ill often.
There are some chronic conditions such as tuberculosis and cardiovascular diseases that need continuous treatments and most refugees cannot afford them. In Lebanon, many cases of epidemics like cholera and typhoid have been reported which become a serious regional threat. With more and more incoming refugees with diseases, these epidemics are likely to spread in neighboring countries.
According to an article in National Geographic, Syria was a textbook example of being able to successfully eradicate Polio. There was not a single case of Polio for 15 years, however, the war has changed everything! There have been 110 cases of Polio reported already, and they say that for every polio victim there are 200 - 1000 people carrying the virus. Doctors fear that children who receive less than the recommended 6 doses of vaccinations and who have an overall low immunity, are at a high risk of being exposed to Polio virus..
Neighbouring countries like Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have strict measures to vaccinate children. UN and governments of neighbouring countries have also launched a massive campaign to immunize 22-23 million children, in an attempt to stop the spread. Other than Polio, immunizations for other diseases such as measles have fallen to 53% from 99% in Syria in the past 5 years. Hence, governments in other countries especially in the Middle East, are always vigilant about the spread of contagious diseases and urge parents to regularly vaccinate their kids and give boosters.
The destruction of medical facilities in war zones has added to the decline of different health infrastructures, leading to increased health issues. All this, as a whole, is becoming a global threat. Such complex situations make it necessary for the governments and international communities to formulate new strategies to overcome it. SMS campaigns, social media, community meetings and other activities help in spreading the message to a large number of audience about the cause.
Most people feel that there is little they can do to help; this is not true. The least we could do is spread awareness about these issues or donate to one of the many neutral organizations aiding in easing the pains of war for refugees. You can check the WFP (World Food Program) and the UNWRA social media pages to get the latest updates. You can also directly donate to the WFP or donate to the UNWRA.