Media Releases

Helping refugees heal

June 1, 2015

North America’s Largest International Refugee Health Conference Takes Place June 4–6 in Toronto; Topics Include Ebola, Genital Mutilation, Alternatives to Detention

TORONTO, ON – With peo­ple flee­ing blood­shed in the Mid­dle East and West Africans dis­placed by Ebo­la, the world is fac­ing the largest refugee cri­sis since the Sec­ond World War. More than 500 med­ical lead­ers will gath­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to (U of T) to address the urgent health prob­lems faced by many refugees, from mal­nu­tri­tion and malar­ia to the psy­chi­atric fall­out from watch­ing the mur­der of loved ones.

“In the past year, refugees escap­ing war and per­se­cu­tion have dom­i­nat­ed the head­lines,” said Pro­fes­sor Anna Baner­ji, the con­fer­ence chair. “From the impact of the Syr­i­an con­flict, to boat­loads of migrants in the Mediter­ranean Sea, the refugee jour­ney is per­ilous. We’re bring­ing togeth­er world lead­ers in refugee health to find solu­tions.”

Keynote speak­ers include Dr. Mar­tin Cetron, who leads the Unit­ed States’ Ebo­la response for the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, and Dr. Paul Spiegel of the Unit­ed Nations High Com­mis­sion on Refugees, who will dis­cuss the social fac­tors that keep refugees from inte­grat­ing into their new homes.

Health prob­lems among dis­placed peo­ple liv­ing in camps tend to be urgent and imme­di­ate — such as par­a­sitic infec­tions from lack of clean drink­ing water, or tuber­cu­lo­sis — but once refugees arrive in coun­tries like Cana­da, they often become “revic­tim­ized” due to deten­tion or lack of health care, said Baner­ji, who is also Direc­tor of Glob­al and Indige­nous Health for the Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Medicine’s Con­tin­u­ing Pro­fes­sion­al Devel­op­ment.

“We need to do bet­ter in car­ing for refugees’ health and men­tal health,” she said. “These peo­ple are com­ing from extreme vio­lence and they’re flee­ing for their lives. We have an inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tion to care for peo­ple who are the most vul­ner­a­ble in the world.”

Lucia Jung, from North Korea will share her heart-wrench­ing sto­ry of escape from North Korea for fear that her Chi­nese-Kore­an baby would be killed. The con­fer­ence will also fea­ture Mar­tin Ngi­gi, who fled Kenya due to anti-LGBT vio­lence.

For a full list of speak­ers and top­ics, please vis­it the web­site of the North Amer­i­can Refugee Health Con­fer­ence at


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Hei­di Singer
Media Rela­tions Spe­cial­ist
Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–978-5811