Protecting the health and well-being of refugees

Americans like you help refugees access healthcare every day of the year

April 6, 2017

When people are forced from their homes by war or persecution, health risks increase and access to healthcare is severely limited. They flee to find immediate safety — embarking on dangerous journeys across regions lacking medical services. Crossing a desert to run from bombs. Taking a boat to escape persecution.

Thankfully, with support from donors, the UN Refugee Agency is able to offer lifesaving healthcare and support to refugees. From emergency care to vaccinations, surgery to trauma counseling, USA for UNHCR donors are saving lives — today on World Health Day and every day of the year.

Here are just a few ways donors help:

UNHCR-Map-Protecting Refugee HealthClick to enlarge image.


Jena, 8 months, is held by her father Ahmed, 22, in the family's rented apartment on the outskirts of Amman, Amman Governorate, Jordan. UNHCR provided the family with a one-off cash assistance to cover an emergency caesarean section for Sumaiya and hospital treatment for Jena. The family also receive winter assistance.

When Sumaiya began experiencing pregnancy complications in her third trimester, she and her husband Ahmed turned to UNHCR for medical support. Their daughter Jena was born through an emergency caesarean section and was treated for lung problems during a 14-day hospitalization. Today both mother and daughter are happy and healthy. Without support from UNHCR, Syrian refugees like Sumaiya and her family living in Jordan would not have access to critical care.

The UN Refugee Agency is committed to providing access to primary healthcare services through both direct access to medical experts and referrals to specialists. These lifesaving services are only possible with USA for UNHCR donor support.

I was so happy. I could not pay without this help. I can’t bear thinking about what would have happened without it.


The psychological impact of being driven from their homes and the harrowing journey to safety can be devastating to refugees of all ages. This toll on mental health is often untreated. Many suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Around 15-20% of displaced people suffer from mental health challenges.  

To counter the long-lasting effects of these traumatic experiences, the UN Refugee Agency trains staff to identify and respond to mental health issues. Here, Syrian refugees take part in a special therapy session for children at a UNHCR-supported center in Beirut, Lebanon.

Syrian refugee Aya, 6, takes part in a psychomotor therapy group designed to help children traumatised by war at the Restart Centre in Beirut. ; For millions of Syrian families, the psychological scars of seeing their country and loved ones torn apart by war, death and bereavement, has left deep wounds. There are over a million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, having fled the war. Some of these families are able to attend weekly counselling sessions at the Restart Centre in Beirut, which offers psychomotor therapy – physical activities that help children re-develop their social skills and imagination, as well as teaching them relaxation techniques and motivational exercises.


In addition to direct access to medical services, the UN Refugee Agency provides preventative services such as vaccinations and access to materials like bed nets to avoid possible infections and diseases. Jacqueline was pregnant when she was forced to flee violence in her native Burundi. Today, she lives with her husband and their two little boys, Alikeli and Dani, in Tanzania’s Nduta refugee camp. UNHCR provided the family shelter and mosquito nets to counter the risk of malaria.

Burundi refugee Jacqueline, her husband Joseph and children Dani (4.5months) and Alikeli (7 years) have found safety and shelter in Nduta refugee camp, Kibondo, Tanzania. Jacqueline was pregnant with baby Dani when she fled Burundi. The family arrived in Tanzania on 28 June 2015 and after nearly 4 months in a mass shelter in Nyarugusu camp were transferred to Nduta camp at the end of November 2015 and allocated a UNHCR family shelter. “After so much time in the mass shelter, getting this shelter was so nice. The whole time in the other camp I worried about the children catching diseases and illness. Here we are together as a family,” says Jacqueline ; In February, Nduta refugee camp, Kibondo Region of Tanzania was host to some 43,000 refugees from Burundi, with capacity to shelter 55,000 people. Around 200 Burundi refugees arrived at the camp every day, fleeing the violence that escalated in May 2015. UNHCR has built emergency family shelters using wooden poles sustainably sourced from the local forests. Each family shelter has a veranda overhang to provide some outdoor shelter and storage space for firewood. Over the coming months the shelters will be upgraded using more transitional materials to provide a safer, warmer living environment.


Access to plenty of clean water, wash and sanitation facilities and items like soap and female hygiene products is vital in helping to prevent the spread of infection and disease. With USA for UNHCR donor support, the UN Refugee Agency can help ensure that refugees have safe access to clean water, toilets and areas to wash.

Girls play with water balloons at one of the water points at the open accommodation site in Alexandria. ; Water has an impact on many vital sectors of refugees’ lives, from quenching their thirst and cooking to taking a shower, washing their clothes and taking care of their babies. UNHCR’s WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) programmes aim at providing a comprehensive package of standardized, safe, easily accessible water supply and sanitation facilities, as well as a series of hygiene promoting services at refugees accomodation sites.

Your help is urgently needed …

As a USA for UNHCR monthly donor, you can make sure that refugee families receive the healthcare they need — and the hope for a safer future. It’s the most effective and efficient way you can help – Start your gifts today.