E13 Hot Topic session: The refugee crisis and the role of pharmacy - Challenges and apportunities

Tuesday 12 September 2017
COEX Convention & Exhibition Center : Grand Ballroom 105 1.5 hours

Organised by the FIP Programme Committee

Chairs: Betty Chaar (The University of Sydney, Australia) and Lars-Åke Söderlund (Apoteket, Sweden)


The world has witnessed over recent years an unprecedented movement of human beings across borders at sea and over land, seeking refuge from the horrors experienced in war torn countries.  It has been called a “refugee crisis”.

These refugees are displaced, disoriented, in dire need of shelter and healthcare. And they present challenges to even the best of developed governments, communities and healthcare systems they arrive at. Some countries they appeal for help from are already themselves burdened with the weight of past civil or political unrest. According to the United Nations, in 2014, an astounding 86 percent of refugees lived in developing countries. Refugees also increasingly live in host communities rather than refugee camps, with 60 percent living in urban settings.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2015, 1 in every 113 people worldwide was forced to flee their home—either as a refugee, internally displaced person or asylum seeker. Today, more than 65 million people are currently displaced globally. Children make up 50 percent of the refugee population, and almost 50 percent are women or girls.  With the refugees, global need has outpaced the international community’s ability to respond, logistically and financially, despite great generosity. Violence and instability around the globe, especially in Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, have led to millions of individuals fleeing for their lives.

Humanitarian response, including to the displaced, is generally designed to be lifesaving, and short-term. Yet not only are there more people displaced today, but they are displaced for longer, with the average duration of protracted refugee situations estimated at the end of 2016 to be about 25 years. Millions of refugees and others forcibly displaced, can live an entire generation in their community of refuge.

Provision of basic necessities—food, water, shelter, sanitation and necessary medicines — are at the forefront of humanitarian response. The health problems of refugees and migrants are similar to those of the rest of the population, although some groups may have a higher prevalence. The most frequent health problems of newly arrived refugees and migrants include accidental injuries, hypothermia, burns, gastrointestinal illnesses, cardiovascular events, pregnancy- and delivery-related complications, diabetes and hypertension. Female refugees and migrants frequently face specific challenges, particularly in maternal, newborn and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and violence. The exposure of refugees and migrants to the risks associated with population movements – psychosocial disorders, reproductive health problems, higher newborn mortality, drug abuse, nutrition disorders, alcoholism and exposure to violence – increase their vulnerability to non-communicable diseases.

This refugee crisis has presented both challenges and opportunities for many societies and their healthcare systems, including pharmacy. This session is dedicated to pharmacists sharing with us their lived experiences helping refugees in various settings and circumstances.

Learning objectives

At the conclusion of this knowledge-based session, participants will be able to

  1. Explain the challenges and risks facing pharmacy when working in a refugee camp
  2. Distinguish a deeper, empathetic understanding of the crisis and its impact on the refugee as a human entity, society and pharmacy as a healthcare profession
  3. List the opportunities in a refugee crisis and how pharmacy can help refugees to live a new life in good health
  4. Tell a greater appreciation for the complexity of a refugee crisis.


14:30 – 14:35

1.       Introduction by the chairs

14:35 – 14:55

2.       The refugee crisis, a Lebanese perspective

Mohammad Hendaus (Lebanese International University, Lebanon)

14:55 – 15:15

3.       Looking into post-traumatic stress disorder among Syrian refugees living in Jordan, a perspective from pharmacists in Jordan

Iman Basheti (Applied Science University, Jordan)

15:15 – 15:35

4.       The opportunities for society and pharmacy, a Swedish perspective

Annika Tengvall, (Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sweden)

15:35 – 16:00

5.       Debate

Speakers and Jane Dawson (FIP Military Pharmacy Section, New Zealand)

What can pharmacy do to help? How can pharmacy help? Important issues to consider? Which help is the best help? Supplying medicines to a refugee camp – a logistic nightmare? How to facilitate integration?