International Day of Peace 2021: The Right to Health for Refugees

Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash

Refugees are people who are outside of their country of nationality and are unable or unwilling to come back to that country due to well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group, or political opinion. Currently, at least 82.4 million people have been forced to flee their home country due to conflict or persecution, meaning that one in every 95 people is a refugee. According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, children under the age of 18 make up more than a third of this number.

A recent survey showed that refugees considered health as their second biggest challenge to face, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Health is also a concern in every part of a refugee’s journey. Before arriving in a host country, refugees generally have experienced severe trauma or loss, leading to post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and anxiety. These psychological issues impede the capacity of refugees to adapt to their new environment. In their host countries, refugees also face barriers to access to adequate healthcare services. From an economic standpoint, refugees often lack financial means to seek treatment as they do not benefit from Universal Health Care (UHC) programs on top of having a hard time getting jobs. Language barriers also disrupt effective communication with healthcare workers. In addition, the stigma and discrimination that these refugees have or are currently experiencing may cause an aversion to seeking help when needed.

As with many other issues, the COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated these problems. Overcrowded camps, settlements, and makeshift shelters without adequate access to health services, clean water, and sanitation puts refugees at high risk for COVID-19. Already strained public health care systems have become less accessible with current mobility restrictions in each country. A joint statement by UNHCR, IOM, OCHR, and WHO stated that three-quarters of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing regions where health systems are already overwhelmed and under-capacitated. Equal vaccine distribution amongst refugees has also been an issue as free vaccinations require an official identification number unless the local government has created vaccination programs specifically for refugees. In some areas, refugees still have to fund their own vaccinations.

This situation is undoubtedly a human rights crisis. Healthcare is oftentimes still viewed as a privilege for refugees even though it is a human right that every person deserves to enjoy. Therefore, in celebration of International Day of Peace (IDoP) 2021, SCORP-CIMSA is holding a campaign with the theme “The Right to Health for Refugees”. Collaborating with UNHCR, CWS, Refugee Learning Center, Hope Learning Center, Suaka, and Peacegen, this campaign aims to increase the awareness of the general public, especially Indonesian medical, regarding current conditions of refugees regarding their right to health. SCORP-CIMSA also encourages the public, GO, and NGO to take action in addressing this issue. 


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