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Global Solutions

The Syrian Refugee Health Crisis

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Public Outreach, Research, Symposium Seek Solutions to Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis

Faculty and students from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have been working on the frontlines and behind the scenes to shape public health responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, described by Amnesty International as “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”

Projects included a September 2015 symposium and new research initiatives designed to better understand the challenges of and propose solutions to the five-year conflict that has seen an estimated 11 million Syrians flee their country.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Searching for Solutions, which featured keynote speaker Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, probed the causes of the worst asylum crisis since World War II and sought lasting solutions for this and future crises.

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International Health associate Adam Kushner, MD, MPH ’99, recounted his 2013 on-the-ground work in Syria with a team from Doctors Without Borders. At a small hospital in Aleppo, he provided surgical care to people suffering from abdominal wounds, shattered kidneys and spleens, and shredded intestines.

Kushner’s study on the surgical needs of the world’s 60 million refugees, based on U.N. data and published in World Journal of Surgery, estimated that they may need at least 2.78 million surgeries a year.

At the School’s Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, associate director for research Shannon Doocy, PhD ’04, is leading ongoing assessments of Syrians’ basic needs—food, medicine, daily living items—to provide critical data to assistance programs.  

“We want to help humanitarian aid programs shape well-targeted responses.”

“Needs assessments in war zones are important in order to understand what types of assistance people need most and which geographic areas have the greatest level of unmet needs,” Doocy explains. “When there are limited resources, we want to help humanitarian aid programs shape well-targeted responses.”

The Center is also evaluating the effectiveness of cash-based food programs for vulnerable Syrian households and developing noncommunicable disease diagnosis and management guidelines for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.