Poor sanitation, hygiene, overcrowding, medicine shortages and food insecurity are major issues in countries immersed in warfare. Nations such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya and the Central African Republic face these issues. Consequently, diseases in war-torn countries are a major concern. Inadequate amounts of safe drinking water and nutritious meals in refugee camps endanger millions of lives. One child dies every 10 minutes due to preventable diseases.
The International Office of Migration recently declared that a rise in the number of individuals in refugee camps is coincident with the increase in the number of diseases in war-torn countries in Africa.
The following diseases are most prevalent among individuals who have been externally and internally displaced:
Over 400,000 children in African countries under 5 currently suffer from acute malnutrition. Additionally, nearly 2.2 million children in Yemen are also suffering from severe cases of acute malnutrition. Malnutrition can exacerbate and give rise to other diseases, like cholera, tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Consequently, UNICEF is conducting localized vaccination campaigns and nutrition surveillance initiatives to address malnutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working alongside health authorities and other partners to swiftly respond to the risks posed by life-threatening diseases in war-torn countries. Under the WHO, the Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) is aiding in the training of health personnel and surveillance officers. It also assists with the effective detection of massive disease outbreaks.
Cholera is growing very common in South Sudan. The Vibrio cholerae bacterium produces a distinct toxin that poisons cells. Once this condition aggravates, it is difficult to absorb water from the gastrointestinal tract. This results in the secretion of large volumes of water.
UNICEF-sponsored clinics are initiating oral-rehydration therapies and distributing water purification tablets to help those impacted.
Malaria is becoming especially common among refugee camps along the Turkish-Syria border and many parts of Pakistan. It can culminate in the complete collapse of the body systems. Additionally, children are especially susceptible to this illness.
China has recently transported over 500,000 anti-malaria drugs to South Sudan to combat the threat of malaria. Over 400,000 individuals will benefit from this.
This disease is still endemic in countries like Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio results in weaknesses in the muscles of the legs and diaphragm and paralysis. Immunization coverage is also quite poor in these places.
However, the Gavi Alliance board is supporting the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) as a way of addressing the humanitarian emergency it poses to refugees and vulnerable civilians. With the help of the Gavi initiative, immunization programs will become more routine and efficient in combatting such diseases in war-torn countries. The cost to extend the project until 2020 is over $250 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) currently spearhead the project.
This particular infection is essentially a liver disease and is caused by the HEV virus due to the consumption of contaminated food and water. The disease passes through the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis E impacts over 20 million individuals worldwide every year. The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization has been reviewing the state of the disease and the immunogenicity of the vaccine since 2015.
An estimated of 2.6 million children under the age of 15 are at risk of contracting the disease in Yemen. The majority of women and children have not received vaccinations for more than 2 years. Also known as rubeola, measles can become very ubiquitous during periods of mass-displacement. It is an infectious and contagious disease that results in high fever and challenges to the respiratory system. The current lack of vaccination and immunization schemes is debilitating.
The Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan is a 10-year initiative conducted by the WHO and World Health Assembly from 2012 to 2020. It aims to ensure the control and elimination of measles.
Overall, it is vital to counter the risk of diseases in war-torn countries from becoming endemics in refugee camps and war-torn areas. Due to the close proximity in which people live in these zones, diseases and infections can become very widespread. But the current collaborative efforts undertaken by nonprofit and international organizations will go a long way in alleviating the problem.
– Shivani Ekkanath