UNHCR report says Syrian influx strains host country health services

News Stories, 26 April 2013

© UNHCR/A.Branthwaite
A Syrian father watches as Turkish medical staff examine his child who has developed breathing difficulties.

GENEVA, April 26 (UNHCR) A UN refugee agency report released on Friday warns that the Syria refugee crisis is increasingly straining health services in surrounding countries, while refugees are facing increasing difficulties in accessing the quality treatment they need particularly those with chronic and other costly health conditions.

The report, which covers the first three months of 2013 in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, shows that refugees need treatment for a wide range of both common and conflict-related conditions, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

"These include injuries, psychological illnesses and communicable diseases e.g., respiratory illnesses, diarrhoea, skin and eye conditions often found in other refugee settings worldwide plus other costlier and longer term chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular illnesses as well as expensive referral care that is more commonly diagnosed and treated in middle income countries," he explained.

With more than 1 million Syrian refugees in these three countries, and above 1.4 million around the region, there are two major problems facing the health system. First, with low funding for the refugee crisis, the challenge of providing access to quality health care for Syrian refugees is growing particularly for people living outside of camps. Secondly, the increasing numbers of people needing medical help is straining existing health services in each of the affected countries.

"Both issues are a matter of serious concern to UNHCR," Edwards stressed, adding: "We continue, with our partners, to provide medical care for refugees in the camps in Jordan and Iraq. But for those refugees who live outside of camps, often in urban settings, the situation is more difficult."

In Jordan and Iraq, health care costs for refugees are covered by governments, UNHCR and many other organizations, but providing expensive referral care such as renal dialysis, orthopaedic surgery and cancer treatment is becoming much more difficult. In Lebanon, which has a largely privatized health care system and cost sharing is the norm, resource shortages mean UNHCR and partner agencies are faced with having to reduce support for both primary and more costly referral health care.

In terms of the overall health situation of Syrian refugees, the UNHCR report shows a mixed picture. Syrian refugees are not reported to be suffering from high rates of mortality and acute malnutrition. Mortality at the Za'atri camp in Jordan, for example, is reported at 0.1 per 1,000 people per month, while global acute malnutrition in children below five years is less than 5.8 per cent neither rate being outside norms seen in the region. This is in contrast to many other humanitarian situations in other parts of the world.

However, preventative services, chronic disease treatment and expensive referral care are not sufficiently provided at a cost that refugees, despite the support provided by the governments and humanitarian agencies, can afford.

Edwards said that among people undergoing consultation for mental health illness, generalized anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder were found at Jordan's Za'atri camp in 21.6 per cent and 8.5 per cent of patients, respectively. "In Lebanon some 400 mental health consultations are conducted every week. Disease outbreaks have been limited thus far and the surveillance systems have been capturing them; these include limited transmission of measles, hepatitis A and leishmaniasis," he added.

The report was primarily based on information from established refugee camps except for data from Lebanon and showed, among other issues, that further work is needed to improve data collection particularly for out-of-camp situations. UNHCR and its partners have alread

y begun working to address this issue.

As of last night 1,401,435 Syrians had registered as refugees in the region or were pending registration. This corresponds to 30 per cent more than the total envisaged under the current Regional Refugee Response Plan by end June 2013 for which around 55 per cent of funding has so far been received. An updated plan is due to be presented to donors in late May. UNHCR continues to roll out additional capacity as funding comes in.

The report can be seen at http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

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2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."
Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced Iraqis

This week UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is visiting Iraq to meet with families displaced by conflict in recent weeks. After listening to accounts of their difficult journeys to safety, Guterres called for more support to help deal with the crisis. He will also visit some of the 300,000 Syrian refugees currently living in camps in northern Iraq.