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Public Health

What We Do
© UNHCR/M.Pearson, September 2005

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.

Public Health Data

Learn how UNHCR collects and uses public health data in refugee settings.

Reproductive Health

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.

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Global Strategy for Public Health

A UNHCR Strategy 2014-2018

Public Health - HIV and Reproductive Health - Food Security and Nutrition - Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

UNHCR's Principles and Guidance for Referral Health Care for Refugees and Other Persons of Concern

How to plan and implement a country level health referral scheme for refugees, asylum seekers and other persons of concern.
Also available in French.