Conflict, displacement and health in the Middle East

Glob Public Health. 2011;6(5):472-87. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2011.570358. Epub 2011 May 16.


Displacement is a hallmark of modern humanitarian emergencies. Displacement itself is a traumatic event that can result in illness or death. Survivors face challenges including lack of adequate shelter, decreased access to health services, food insecurity, loss of livelihoods, social marginalisation as well as economic and sexual exploitation. Displacement takes many forms in the Middle East and the Arab World. Historical conflicts have resulted in long-term displacement of Palestinians. Internal conflicts have driven millions of Somalis and Sudanese from their homes. Iraqis have been displaced throughout the region by invasion and civil strife. In addition, large numbers of migrants transit Middle Eastern countries or live there illegally and suffer similar conditions as forcibly displaced people. Displacement in the Middle East is an urban phenomenon. Many displaced people live hidden among host country populations in poor urban neighbourhoods - often without legal status. This represents a challenge for groups attempting to access displaced populations. Furthermore, health information systems in host countries often do not collect data on displaced people, making it difficult to gather data needed to target interventions towards these vulnerable populations. The following is a discussion of the health impacts of conflict and displacement in the Middle East. A review was conducted of published literature on migration and displacement in the region. Different cases are discussed with an emphasis on the recent, large-scale and urban displacement of Iraqis to illustrate aspects of displacement in this region.

Keywords: Middle East; conflict; displacement; health; refugee.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Human Rights*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexism
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Warfare*
  • Women's Rights