10 Health Facts About Refugees and Migrants

Mohamed Malim


Fleeing one’s own home is a stressful endeavor, both physically and mentally. The experience of loss of property, abuse, incarceration, malnutrition, extreme fear, loss of income, physical and sexual assault means refugees are prone to developing various physical and mental health issues.


Here at Epimonia, we provide support to these individuals through fashionable accessories and apparel. It is essential to understand and be informed about health facts that are specific to refugees and migrants, in order to better accommodate them.


Check out these ten key facts below.

1. Lack of Access To Health Services


Refugees and migrants play an important role in the development of where they live and even where they come from. This is why it’s important to give them access to proper healthcare. Not only does this accessibility make communities healthier, but it reduces the burden on the host country as access to these basic services prevents the rise of bigger and more serious diseases. By neglecting individuals, the risk of long-term health issues rises and the burden on the host country’s health systems increases.


Related: What challenges do Refugees and Migrants face?

2. No Clear Insight Into The Number of Refugees Expected


The data that is available regarding refugees and migrants is merely an estimate. There are a lot of factors that prevent accurate representation of refugees from a statistical point of view. This inaccuracy in refugee count hinders the health policy formation process and healthcare infrastructure development that’s required for the proper development of healthcare services. After all, if a host country doesn't have a clear picture of the number of refugees entering the nation, they can't accurately plan to ensure medical services are available to these refugees.

3. Migrants And Refugees Are Generally Prone to Health Issues


It’s a common misconception that refugees and migrants carry unhealthy diseases and habits. The truth, however, is entirely different. Most refugees and migrants tend to fall sick during the journey, mostly due to the unhygienic conditions of refugee camps and the harsh nature of their transit. This is more common in women and children. Because of this, host countries need to be better prepared to create prevention measures and treat any refugee ailments.


4. They Are At A Lower Risk Of Cancer


While refugees and migrants are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease, in general, they are at a lower risk of cancer. For Syrian refugees, the priority of health care is for Anemia, Diabetes, Hypertension, and Mental health.


According to a study published by Lancet Oncology, out of 511 applications for cancer treatments received by the ECC in Jordan, only 246 were accepted. The reason being that the prognosis was deemed 'bad'. This points to a major piece of information that the severity of cancer among refugees is high.


5. Refugee Health Is Related To Their Origin Country


To understand the health profile of refugees and migrants, it’s important to study the health situation of their origin country and the infrastructure there. This helps the host country treat them more efficiently and effectively.


For example, Anemia is common in Somalian children as it’s caused due to parasitic infection and iron deficiency. In a study of refugee children from Somalia, 21.4% of children under the age of 18 were anemic. Hence,  an understanding of their origin country and what diseases or health conditions are prevalent there is crucial when it comes to refugee health. Allowing to track down these individuals’ backgrounds will allow to prevent and treat these ongoing health issues.

6.    Children Are More Vulnerable


The global number of child refugees has seen a subsequent increase, at least 300,000 unaccompanied children moving across borders were registered over two years in 2015–2016. What this means is that children will be more likely to be exposed to diseases and are highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.


In a 2013 survey, around 48% of minors claimed that they left their home country due to escalating violence. Similarly, behavioral patterns of Yazidi children were observed after they were forcefully displaced and it was observed that over one-third of them had a depressive disorder. 


The Venezuelan hunger crisis forced 1.5 million people to flee the country due to poverty, hunger, and violence. Diseases like tuberculosis, Diptheria, malaria, and measles are back due to the lack of access to healthcare for children.


“While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines, and food,” UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said in a statement.


While migration, children go through the individual stress of trauma and have to deal with being uprooted from their homes. The number of refugee children facing incarceration and sexual violence is on the rise. A survey of rescued ships also found prominent dermatological conditions and dehydration among its passengers. Due to the traumatic events that happen in the origin country, many children are often left behind and are left to deal with the circumstances by themselves.

7. PTSD is Prevalent Among Refugees


In a recent survey, 45% of Syrian refugee children showed signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, which is ten times higher than the worldwide average. This indicates that host countries should prepare themselves to tackle such situations as well.


A study done among refugees from Iran, the Balkan region and Turkey showed that all participants had PTSD. Refugees who have gone through traumatic experiences are highly vulnerable to PTSD and secondary psychotic features and illnesses.


In the case of migrant children, they are left to deal with the psychological conditions of their parents while trying to understand and deal with their own mental conditions. They lack a sense of security and support due to the psychological conditions of their caregivers.


8. Refugees Need Proper Healthcare Infrastructure


More than 86% of refugees make way to developing countries to seek shelter, this is primarily because of the proximity. These countries themselves have an ongoing uphill battle when it comes to providing access to healthcare to their citizens and the arrival of refugees puts additional pressure on them. In such cases, there should be a stringent focus on developing infrastructure that enables basic healthcare for everyone regardless of their situation.


Related: 19 Ways to Help Refugees

9. Mental Health Is Key


A study done on Congolese refugees showed that 41% of the adult population that met the symptom criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD), and 50% for PTSD. While mental health awareness is increasing, access to professionals is still an ongoing issue. Countries should focus on and consider mental health as much as the economic well-being as a host country.


Similarly, depression and anxiety rates among the Karenni refugees that live along the Thai-Burmese border are at around 41% and 42% respectively, which are way higher than the depression and anxiety rates among the average US population.


Moreover, the largest review of its kind that was published in 2009, identified 181 surveys undertaken amongst 81,866 refugees and other conflict‐affected populations from 40 countries studied the association of torture and other traumatic events with mental health accounted higher rates of reported prevalence of PTSD and depression among their participants.

10. Health Systems Aren’t Refugee Friendly


There are many barriers that come between refugees and migrants and their ability to access health care. This ranges from cultural differences, language barriers, inability to afford healthcare and ineligibility. 


The assimilation process isn’t particularly refugee friendly. Most refugees and migrants face immense stress and face the uphill process of integrating themselves in a new country and culture.


Additionally, while there is aid available, due to the increased pressure on the system it is fairly limited and hence many migrants and refugees pay out of their own pockets for healthcare since they don’t have access to universal health care.


The Way Forward


There are many challenges that come in the way of providing adequate healthcare solutions for refugees and migrants. The focus on migrant and refugee health is one of the key points of the United Nations Sustainable Goals and it specifically requires the medical and scientific community to recognize the complex nature of migrant health.


Statistics prove that increased spending by the UNHCR in the migrant countries is correlated to lower mortality rates.  With the help of these statistics and information, a 360-degree approach can be drafted when it comes to refugee and migrant health.


Here at Epimonia we are promote refugee and immigrant education and advancement through a 50% donation on all our products.


Related: How to Sponsor a Refugee

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