World Refugee Day: healthcare access remains a priority

by Christian Ledwell, Doctors of the World UK. | Doctors of the World UK- Medecins du Monde (MDM) -
Thursday, 20 June 2013 08:19 GMT

Refugees at a Doctors of the World centre in Zaatari camp, Jordan. Photo by David Brunetti.

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* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

On World Refugee Day, Doctors of the World renews its call that refugees everywhere should have access to healthcare. With a report by the UN’s refugee agency saying that more people are displaced today than at any time since 1994, there is a pressing need to address this universal right to healthcare.

“In many places, but especially in and around Syria, the needs are both grave and immense right now,” says Leigh Daynes, Executive Director of Doctors of the World UK. “More than ever we need to do our best to ensure humanitarian aid reaches those who need it most.”

The UN’s Global Trends report released this week states that by the end of 2012, 45.2 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations. This figure includes 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers, and 28.8 million people forced to flee within the borders of their own countries.

“These truly are alarming numbers,” says António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and head of UNHCR. “They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them.”

War remains the single largest cause of displacement. Doctors of the World continues to provide healthcare for those affected by conflicts, particularly with our efforts in Syria and Mali.

Encouragingly, G8 leaders have agreed a new package of humanitarian aid for Syria, with the UK making a further £175 million available for longer-term intervention that includes healthcare. However, as the conflict shows little sign of abating – with the number of confirmed fatalities reaching almost 100,000 and reports of the use of chemical weapons – greater humanitarian assistance for those affected by the conflict is urgently needed.

“We must keep the momentum moving forward in the push to help Syrians,” says Leigh Daynes. “Both in terms of humanitarian aid and in finding a solution to the conflict.”

Positive developments have also been seen in Mali with a peace deal being signed this week between the Mali government and Tuareg fighters, bringing hope for an end to the hostilities that have displaced over 200,000 Malians. But the transition back to stability will be a long process, and healthcare support from humanitarian groups remains vital.

And on World Refugee Day, we mustn’t forget that within the UK itself, migration remains a major issue. The UK received 27,500 asylum seekers in 2012, playing an important role in working towards what the UN report describes as “durable solutions to allow refugees to rebuild their lives in dignity and safety.” As well as our work abroad, Doctors of the World remains active in advocating for the rights of vulnerable migrants within the UK to receive the medical care they are entitled to.

As the right to healthcare is often denied to those who have been forcibly displaced, humanitarian groups must continue to ensure that medical care is available to as many refugees and displaced people as possible. And with global refugee numbers growing ever higher, this will remain a serious and ongoing challenge.

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