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Famine-affected, Refugee, and Displaced Populations: Recommendations for Public Health Issues
  • Published Date:
    July 24, 1992
  • Status:
  • Source:
    MMWR. Recommendations and reports : Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Recommendations and reports / Centers for Disease Control. 1992; 41(RR-13):1-76.
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  • Description:
    During the past three decades, the most common emergencies affecting the health of large populations in developing countries have involved famine and forced migrations. The public health consequences of mass population displacement have been extensively documented. On some occasions, these migrations have resulted in extremely high rates of mortality, morbidity, and malnutrition. The most severe consequences of population displacement have occurred during the acute emergency phase, when relief efforts are in the early stage. During this phase, deaths--in some cases--were 60 times the crude mortality rate (CMR) among non-refugee populations in the country of origin (1). Although the quality of international disaster response efforts has steadily improved, the human cost of forced migration remains high. Since the early 1960s, most emergencies involving refugees and displaced persons have taken place in less developed countries where local resources have been insufficient for providing prompt and adequate assistance. The international community's response to the health needs of these populations has been at times inappropriate, relying on teams of foreign medical personnel with little or no training. Hospitals, clinics, and feeding centers have been set up without assessment of preliminary needs, and essential prevention programs have been neglected. More recent relief programs, however, emphasize a primary health care (PHC) approach, focusing on preventive programs such as immunization and oral rehydration therapy (ORT), promoting involvement by the refugee community in the provision of health services, and stressing more effective coordination and information gathering. The PHC approach offers long-term advantages, not only for the directly affected population, but also for the country hosting the refugees. A PHC strategy is sustainable and strengthens the national health development program.

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