June 1, 2015
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 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 www.northamericanrefugeehealth.com.
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Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto