Physician Leaders Urge Health Care for Refugees

It is essential that countries receiving refugees establish systems to provide them with health care, the World Medical Association said today.

In an emergency resolution adopted at their annual Assembly in Moscow, delegates from more than 50 national medical associations said that governments and international agencies including the United Nations must make more effort to reduce the pressures of the current global refugee crisis. This included rapidly providing extensive relief and making more effort to stop the armed conflict.

The meeting commended those countries that have welcomed and cared for refugees, especially those currently fleeing Syria, and called on other countries to improve their willingness to receive refugees and asylum seekers. It pointed out that most countries have signed international treaties giving them binding obligations to offer aid and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.

WMA President Sir Michael Marmot said: ‘It is important we make the point that refugees are people who are suffering, and that we as doctors understand that suffering that has led them to become refugees. These are desperate refugees from Syria escaping the effects of armed conflict including bombing, lack of access to utilities, clean water, and the destruction of their homes, schools and hospitals.

‘So we urge all governments to provide immediate help to countries facing the effects of what has become the largest mass movement of populations in over 70 years.

‘This should include safe passage for refugees, and appropriate support after they enter countries offering refuge. Governments must seek to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are able to live in dignity within their country of refuge and make every effort to enable their integration into their new society.

‘But above all the international community must work to get a peaceful solution in Syria under which the population can either stay at home safely or, if they have already left, safely return home.’

The emergency resolution passed by the Assembly also calls on the global media to report on the refugee crisis in a manner ‘that respects the dignity of refugees and displaced persons, and to avoid bigotry and racial or other bias in reporting’.