Host country responses to non-communicable diseases amongst Syrian refugees: a review

Akik, Chaza; Ghattas, Hala; Mesmar, Sandra; Rabkin, Miriam; El-Sadr, Wafaa M.; Fouad, Fouad M.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have hosted large refugee populations, with a high pre-conflict burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

We aimed to describe the ways in which these three host country health systems have provided NCD services to Syrian refugees over time, and to highlight the successes and challenges they encountered.

We conducted a descriptive review of the academic and grey literature, published between March 2011 and March 2017, using PubMed and Google searches complemented with documents provided by relevant stakeholders.

Forty-one articles and reports met our search criteria. Despite the scarcity of systematic population-level data, these documents highlight the high burden of reported NCDs among Syrian refugees, especially amongst older adults. The three host countries utilized different approaches to the design, delivery and financing of NCD services for these refugees. In Jordan and Lebanon, Ministries of Health and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) coordinate a diverse group of health care providers to deliver health services to Syrian refugees at a subsidized cost. In Turkey, however, services are provided solely by the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), a Turkish governmental agency, with no cost to patients for primary or secondary care. Access to NCD services varied both within and between countries, with no data available from Turkey. The cost of NCD treatment is the primary barrier to accessing healthcare, with high out-of-pocket payments required for medications and secondary and tertiary care services, despite the availability of free or subsidized primary health services. Financial impediments led refugees to adopt coping strategies, including returning to Syria to seek treatment, with associated frequent treatment interruptions. These gaps were compounded by health system related barriers such as complex referral systems, lack of effective guidance on navigating the health system, limited health facility capacity and suboptimal NCD health education.

As funding shortages for refugee services continue, innovative service delivery models are needed to create responsive and sustainable solutions to the NCD burden among refugees in host countries.

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Also Published In

Conflict and Health

More About This Work

Academic Units
International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs
Published Here
April 22, 2019


Syrian refugees, Non-communicable diseases, Health systems, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey