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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Governments Need Consistent Standards to Address Environmental Health for Displaced People

The number of people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced has doubled since 1998. Today, that number stands at an estimated 70.8 million people, including refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons who have been affected by things like violence, persecution or natural disasters. These individuals face a number of environmental health challenges which, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, can vastly differ depending on the response by the countries that host them.

Environmental factors play a significant role in the health of displaced populations, especially in emergency situations where inadequate response or relief infrastructure does not address public health needs. Most displaced populations are hosted by low- or middle-income countries, which often provide housing that is poorly sanitized or overcrowded. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prvention (CDC), the major causes of death in emergency displacement situations are the same diseases that affect non-displaced populations in developing countries: malaria, measles, diarrhea, respiratory diseases and malnutrition.

In order to identify strategies to prevent these deaths, previous reviews have studied interventions for water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH). To date, however, there has been little research on the broader effect of environmental health conditions. In addition to WaSH, this could include population density, energy access, exposure and several other factors.

A research team from the Gillings School, led by Ms. Brandie Banner Shackelford of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering’s Water Institute, completed a literature review on environmental health in the first six months of displacement.

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