SBV Journal of Basic, Clinical and Applied Health Science
Volume 5 | Issue 1 | Year 2022

Addressing Public Health Challenges during Humanitarian Crisis

Subhash C Parija1, Prateek S Bobhate2

1Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, India
2Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, India

Corresponding Author: Prateek S Bobhate, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, India, e-mail: prateekbobhate@gmail.com

How to cite this article: Parija SC, Bobhate PS. Addressing Public Health Challenges during Humanitarian Crisis. J Basic Clin Appl Health Sci 2022;5(1):1–2.

Source of support: Nil

Conflict of interest: None


A humanitarian crisis is defined as an event or a series of events that threaten the health, safety, or well-being of a community. These crises may be man-made or natural disasters or complex emergencies viz. conflicts, wars, epidemics, pandemics, and other natural disasters like earthquake and famines, requiring unique targeted interventions toward the affected sectors. Worldwide, about 80 million people’s lives are put at risk due to humanitarian crisis arising from human conflicts, viz. Sudan and Syria, or natural disasters.1,2 In the current ongoing conflict in Ukraine, thousands of lives have been lost including that of children and many more have been severely injured. It has been estimated that around 4 million people would flee away from Ukraine in order to find refuge and support from across the region.3 The most vulnerable population groups in such times are women and children, elderly persons, persons with disability, and ethnic minorities. The humanitarian crisis poses an immediate public health risk to the refugee population with regard to not only infectious diseases but also noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), maternal and child health issues, vaccine-preventable diseases, and also mental health disorders.


During a conflict, vast population is displaced. They are at increased risk for various communicable diseases viz. coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), poliomyelitis, measles, diarrheal diseases, and sexually transmitted diseases due to overcrowding, more close social contact, lack of shelter, poor quality of food and water, poor sanitation, and hygienic practices. In addition, lack of essential primary healthcare, low routine immunization coverage, lack of routine surveillance, and disruption in the diagnostic and treatment facilities for diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. There is also an increased risk of NCDs like hypertension, diabetes, cancers, and mental health disorders. This enhanced risk for NCDs is mainly due to limited access to essential healthcare facilities and interruption in the treatment due to shortage of medication which increases the chances of complications like myocardial infarction, stroke, diabetic, and ketoacidosis. The management of cancers further overwhelms an already overburdened health system.1 High levels of anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems are very common in the displaced population which is mainly due to the interruption in the medication and the supportive systems and lack of psychiatric care in addition to increased chances of abuse and neglect.2 Antenatal women, children, and postnatal women represent one of the most vulnerable population groups during such conflict situations. Lack of routine antenatal checkups, dearth of well-equipped intranatal care, disruption of routine immunization coverage, and lack of proper nutrition facilities for children pose a greater threat to the antenatal and child well-being. In addition, lack of security at the refugee camp settlements and paucity of law enforcement increase the likelihood of sexual and gender-based violence for the vulnerable group.2

During a conflict, often there is dearth of availability of health services due to the sheer number of displaced persons. In addition, there is shortage of healthcare personnel, an overwhelmed healthcare system, limited supply of essential drugs, etc. Accessibility to healthcare facility is another major concern during a crisis situation due to language and geographical constraints, lack of information about availability of health facilities, sociocultural and financial barriers, limited availability of specialized care, etc.4



To summarize, it is essential to augment the capacity of the health system to respond efficiently and effectively to mitigate the adverse impact on health due to any humanitarian crisis without being detrimental to the human rights of the displaced population.


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