Today is the United Nations World Refugee Day1. Whether a person is still living as a refugee or has returned to their home, displaced within their own country or to another, seeking asylum status or not, still possessing a nationality or “stateless”, they possess a common “well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, social group membership. or political opinion.”2 and worldwide they leave their homes at a rate of 20 every minute1.
The health risks faced by refugees include displacement from their usual sources of healthcare with the resultant consequences of untreated preexisting chronic illnesses3 such as heart disease and diabetes, interruption of prenatal care, incomplete vaccination of children, interruption of treatment for serious infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, as well as the risk of displacement from an area of low malaria prevalence to higher-risk areas. Their access to healthcare is often problematic or nonexistent. The top five causes of death in children under the age of five who have been forcibly displaced in developing countries are malaria, malnutrition, measles, diarrhea, and respiratory tract infections4, illnesses that are so common in any mission hospital in any resource-limited country. In the case of refugees on this World Refugee Day, the call to do what we can to help has an even stronger moral imperative lest we one day be called to task over this traditional “sin that cries to Heaven”5, that of ignoring the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan.
1. United Nations
World Refugee Day
The 1951 Refugee Convention
3. World Health Organization
International Migration, Health and Human Rights
4. UNHCR |USA Health
5. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition