Intended for healthcare professionals


Long term displacement raises new health needs

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 17 April 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1029

What happens to health needs when refugees get stuck in camps for months or even years? Pat Anderson talks to a medical charity working with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon-Medical Aid for Palestinians-about the long term health effects of “ethnic cleansing”

At the moment, the focus for aid workers in Albania, Turkey, and other countries taking in refugees from Kosovo is on emergency measures such as providing basic nutrition, protection from the elements, and prevention of infectious diseases. These are short term, temporary measures designed to fill the gap until the refugees can go home again. But what happens if the refugees' situation goes unresolved for months, years, or even decades, and camps turn into semipermanent homes?

The experience of another refugee group who have experienced “ethnic cleansing”-the Palestinians in Lebanon-shows that refugees' healthcare needs change as time goes on and that far more than blankets and hot meals are required in the long term.

At least 300000 Palestinian refugees are now living in and around camps in Beirut, Tyre, and Sidon in Lebanon. Some refugees have …

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