Middle Eastern Conflicts: Implications for Refugee Health in the European Union and Middle Eastern Host Countries

J Glob Oncol. 2016 Jun 15;2(6):422-430. doi: 10.1200/JGO.2016.005173. eCollection 2016 Dec.


Until very recently, health care in conflict settings was based on a model developed in the second half of the twentieth century. Things have changed, and present civil wars, such as those that are currently taking place in the Middle East, do not address the complexity of the ongoing armed conflicts in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. These conflicts have caused a significant increase in the number of refugees in the region, as well as in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of refugees succeed in settling in mid- and north-European countries, and their health issues are becoming of great importance. Refugees in Europe in the twenty-first century do not suffer so much from infectious diseases but more from noninfectious chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac disease, and cancer. These facts profoundly alter the demographics and disease burden of hostility-derived migrants. Thus, host European countries face situations they have never faced before. Hence, new approaches and strategies are urgently needed to cope with this new situation. The efforts to absorb refugees of different traditions and cultural backgrounds often cause increasing ethnic and religious tensions, which frequently escort the emergence of social violence. To date, little attention has been paid to the overall load of distress being experienced, especially among the first-generation refugees. The current ongoing hostilities in the Middle East induce a long-term health impact on people expelled from their homes, communities, traditions, and cultural environment. The realization of collective suffering forces communities and governmental health agencies to develop new programs that include social determinants to overcome the severe cultural gaps of the newcomers in their new European host countries.