Health in the midst of a
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

Worldwide, close to a billion people live in fragile and conflict-affected situations.1 In addition to traditional emergency healthcare services, such as war surgery and care for infectious diseases, many people affected by humanitarian crises require access to care for chronic conditions. These conditions are also known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs).2

84 million

people have been forced to flee their homes and communities due to persecution, violence and human rights violations.4

More than three-quarters of refugees are displaced for more than five years, and the vast majority of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people live in developing countries (four out of five).5 Moreover, NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).3 It is estimated that 25–35% of adults in LMICs have an NCD such as hypertension or diabetes.6

NCDs tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.3 These chronic conditions have common characteristics that can make affected people more vulnerable during an emergency.

Anbar province, IRAQ

Markazi camp for internally displaced persons

60-year-old Abda sits outside her tent. Abda has diabetes and has developed gangrene in her left foot. She was displaced from Ramadi a few months ago and has no access to healthcare.

© Magnum Photos for ICRC/SAMAN, Moises

of all deaths globally are due to NCDs3

Health in the midst of a
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

Worldwide, 800 million people live in fragile and conflict-affected situations.1 In addition to traditional emergency healthcare services, such as war surgery and care for infectious diseases, many people affected by humanitarian crises require access to care for chronic conditions. These conditions are also known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs).2

79.5 million

people have been forced to flee their homes and communities due to persecution, violence and human rights violations.4

As many as 95% of these displaced people live in LMICs and more than half have been forcibly displaced for more than four years.5 Moreover, NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).3 It is estimated that 25–35% of adults in LMICs have an NCD such as hypertension or diabetes.6

NCDs tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.3 These chronic conditions have common characteristics that can make affected people more vulnerable during an emergency.

Anbar province, IRAQ

Markazi camp for internally displaced persons

60-year-old Abda sits outside her tent. Abda has diabetes and has developed gangrene in her left foot. She was displaced from Ramadi a few months ago and has no access to healthcare.

© Magnum Photos for ICRC/SAMAN, Moises

of all deaths globally are due to NCDs3

NAJAF, IRAQ

ICRC PHYSICAL REHABILITATION CENTRE

This patient lost his leg due to diabetes-related complications.

© Getty Images/CICR/ DI LAURO, Marco

 

Globally, NCDs are the
LEADING CAUSE OF
DISABILITY9

Emergencies appear to increase the risk of NCD-related complications; events such as heart attacks and strokes may be up to 2–3 times more common than in normal pre-emergency circumstances.6 A lapse in care for NCDs, even for a short period of time, can result in high levels of disability and premature death.6

The chronic nature of these diseases requires continuity of care, which can be even more challenging in a humanitarian crisis, where there are often disruptions in health services or a complete collapse of healthcare systems.2 Furthermore, they are overwhelmingly hosted by communities and countries that are already overburdened by acute health threats such as injuries and infectious diseases as malaria and HIV/AIDS.10,11

Globally, NCDs are the
LEADING CAUSE OF
DISABILITY9

Emergencies appear to increase the risk of NCD-related complications; events such as heart attacks and strokes may be up to 2–3 times more common than in normal pre-emergency circumstances.6 A lapse in care for NCDs, even for a short period of time, can result in high levels of disability and premature death.6

The chronic nature of these diseases requires continuity of care, which can be even more challenging in a humanitarian crisis, where there are often disruptions in health services or a complete collapse of healthcare systems.2 Furthermore, they are overwhelmingly hosted by communities and countries that are already overburdened by acute health threats such as injuries and infectious diseases as malaria and HIV/AIDS.10,11

NAJAF, IRAQ

ICRC PHYSICAL REHABILITATION CENTRE

This patient lost his leg due to diabetes-related complications.

© Getty Images/CICR/ DI LAURO, Marco

 

References

*View the sources for this page here

  1. World Bank. Data: Population, total – Fragile and conflict affected situations. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=F1. Published 2019. Accessed March, 2021.
  2. Rabkin M, Fouad FM, El-Sadr WM. Addressing chronic diseases in protracted emergencies: lessons from HIV for a new health imperative. Global public health. 2018;13(2):227-233.
  3. World Health Organization. Noncommunicable Diseases. Fact sheet. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases. Published 2018. Accessed March, 2021.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee Data Finder. UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/. Updated November, 2021. Accessed January, 2022.
  5. World Bank. Forced Displacement: Internally Displaced and Host Communities. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/forced-displacement#1. Accessed January, 2022.
  6. World Health Organization. Noncommunicable diseases in emergencies.2016:1-7.
  7. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Data Finder. UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=iuV2. Published 2020. Accessed March, 2021.
  8. United Nations Refugee Agency. Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2019. https://www.unhcr.org/5ee200e37.pdf. Published 2019. Accessed December, 2020.
  9. Vos T, Abajobir AA, Abate KH, et al. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet. 2017;390(10100):1211-1259.
  10. World Bank. Forcibly Displaced: Toward a Development Approach Supporting Refugees, the Internally Displaced, and Their Hosts. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO. Washington, DC: World bank;2017. Published 2017. Accessed 2017.
  11. Doocy S, Lyles E, Hanquart B, Team LS, Woodman M. Prevalence, care-seeking, and health service utilization for non-communicable diseases among Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon. Conflict and health. 2016;10:21