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World Refugee Day: the impact of malaria on refugees and displaced populations

Roll Back Malaria
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June 20th - Celebrated globally, World Refugee Day reminds us of the critical situation of refugees around the world . On this day in 2015 more than 50 million ordinary people who had fled from their homes, were living in extraordinarily dire conditions.

Malaria disproportionally affects the most vulnerable population groups, including those who have been displaced within and across countries, and including refugees in malaria endemic areas. Displacement means people trade familiar habitats for ones that are unfamiliar, unhealthy or precarious; like sleeping outdoors, working at night, or in proximity to vector-breeding areas, existing in poor-quality housing with limited use of prevention measures and treatment. Refugees also face other major obstacles when trying to access health care.

Their exposure to malaria is significantly increased when moving from low- to high- transmission areas, because they have no acquired immunity and frequently little knowledge of malaria prevention or treatment. In displacement situations like South Sudan, for example, morbidity and mortality increased among refugees of all age groups. The higher the number of refugees, the larger is the impact.

Despite the challenges, progress in controlling malaria in crisis situations in sub-Saharan Africa has been an important element of the gains made in reducing the malaria burden made since 2000. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organisations provide LLINs to refugees as part of a set of core relief items in response to emergencies in malaria-endemic countries. Alternative tools for protecting people living in camps, villages and towns in emergencies include the use of insecticide-treated plastic sheeting (ITPS) for shelter construction and other insecticide-treated materials.

RBM Partners are working to ensure 50 million refugees and displaced people have better access to malaria services .