Forced migrants

Forced migrants, including refugees, are at particular risk of health problems (Toole and Waldman 1997). Moreover, the circumstances of the migration itself often impinge negatively on the health of the migrants and their concentration in camps immediately after their flight also can lead to deterioration in their health.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other agencies provide medical assistance to some refugees but despite these organizations’ efforts, refugees may face greater health risks at the camps than in their country of origin (Adams and others 2007):

Many refugees and IDPs suffer human rights abuses and hardships prior to leaving their place of origin, which can further affect their physical and mental health even after they have settled in a safe destination. Most of the studies on refugee health were conducted in third country settlement destinations, such as Australia and the United States of America. Studies on the health of refugees and IDPs in South and South-West Asia are limited. However, from literature available, it is clear that many refugees suffer poorer health than the non-migrant population (Frisbie and others 2001).

Among the various studies that highlighted the specific health needs of women and adolescents in refugee camps (Norwegian Refugee Council 2005) polymenorrhea (shortened menstrual cycles), dysmenorrhoea (painful menses), and menstrual irregularity were cited as health issues. The violence experienced by this group and the associated psychological and physical stress was the most commonly cited cause for these health issues (International Initiative of Justice 2003). Studies among the refugee population in general also point to a high incidence of mental illness associated with the torture and trauma that many have suffered (Nicholson 1997). Other reported health issues in the camps are skin diseases, nutrition deficiencies, tuberculosis, kidney disease and asthma (Samaddar 2003).