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Migration and health: key issues

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Migration and health: key issues

Refugees and migrants: common health problems

The health problems of refugees and migrants are similar to those of the rest of the population, although some groups may have a higher prevalence. The most frequent health problems of newly arrived refugees and migrants include accidental injuries, hypothermia, burns, gastrointestinal illnesses, cardiovascular events, pregnancy- and delivery-related complications, diabetes and hypertension. Female refugees and migrants frequently face specific challenges, particularly in maternal, newborn and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and violence. The exposure of refugees and migrants to the risks associated with population movements – psychosocial disorders, reproductive health problems, higher newborn mortality, drug abuse, nutrition disorders, alcoholism and exposure to violence – increase their vulnerability to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The key issue with regard to NCDs is the interruption of care, due either to lack of access or to the decimation of health care systems and providers; displacement results in interruption of the continuous treatment that is crucial for chronic conditions.

Vulnerable individuals, especially children, are prone to respiratory infections and gastrointestinal illnesses because of poor living conditions, suboptimal hygiene and deprivation during migration, and they require access to proper health care. Poor hygienic conditions can also lead to skin infections. Furthermore, the number of casualties and deaths among refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea has increased rapidly, with over 3100 people estimated to have died or gone missing at sea in the first 10 months of 2015, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Read the full report on the World Health Organization