The health of refugees and other forcibly displaced people is a key component of protection and a priority for UNHCR. The 1951 Refugee Convention states that refugees should enjoy access to health services equivalent to that of the host population, while everyone has the right under international law to the highest standards of physical and mental health.
UNHCR works closely with partner organizations who implement health programmes in a range of challenging settings. We play a planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation role. Health and nutrition programmes are delivered within a public health and community development framework, with an emphasis on primary health care and support for secondary hospital care. The objective of these programmes is to minimize mortality and morbidity rates.
The refugee agency plans its health care interventions based on needs, risks and vulnerabilities, which are determined as part of an inter-agency assessment by a competent health and nutrition partner and/or UNHCR staff.
Among forcibly displaced populations in developing countries, the top five killers of children under the age of five are malaria, malnutrition, measles, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections. The priorities for UNHCR and its partners at the start of an emergency are measles immunization, nutritional support, control of communicable diseases and epidemics, implementation of the reproduction health measures and public health surveillance. As the situation stabilizes these services are enlarged. In more developed and urban settings, public health priorities among adults shift toward cardiovascular and chronic diseases and cancers.
If you have any questions, please contact us at E-mail Health.
Learn how UNHCR collects and uses public health data in refugee settings.
Malaria remains an important cause of illness and death among displaced populations.
Reproductive health education for adults and young people is important in helping to raise awareness about, among other things, maternal health; family planning; the fall-out from sexual violence; female genital mutilation; sexually transmitted diseases; and HIV. Find several Guidelines, Strategies, Policies, Monitoring and Evaluation reports and tools for Reproductive Health in Humanitarian settings.
- Ensuring Access to Health Care: Operational Guidance on Refugee Protection and Solutions in Urban Areas [French Spanish]
- Public health equity in refugee and other displaced persons settings, April 2010
- Guiding Principles and Strategic Plans 2008-2012
- Public Health and HIV Section's Guiding Principles and Strategic Plans for HIV and AIDS, Malaria Control, Nutrition and Food Security, Reproductive Health, Water and Sanitation, 2008-2012
A collection of manuals and guidelines relating to the health of refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR.
- UNHCR's Essential Medicines and Medical Supplies
- A Guidance Note on Health Insurance Schemes for Refugees and other Persons of Concern to UNHCR.
- Guidance for Public Health Interventions for Repatriation [French]
- Epidemic Preparednes and Response in Refugee Camp Settings. Guidance for Public Health Officers [French]
- UNHCR's Principles and Guidance for Referral Health Care for Refugees and Other Persons of Concern
A collection of resources relating to non-communicable diseases, mental health and psycho-social support to refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR
- Operational guidance, mental health & psychosocial support programming for refugee operations
- Do's and don'ts in community-based psychosocial support for sexual violence survivors in conflict-affected settings [French]
- Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings
- Mental health and psychosocial support for conflict-related sexual violence: 10 myths [French]
- Assessing Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs and Resources.
A series of publications that document public health best practices in refugee situations.
- Evaluation Tool for Tuberculosis Programs in Resource-limited, Refugee and Post-Conflict Settings (version 2)
- The Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale (HESPER)
- Rapid Assessment of Alcohol and Other Substance Use in Conflict-affected and Displaced Populations: A Field Guide
- Guidelines for Implementing Interagency Health and Nutrition Evaluations in Humanitarian Crises