Forced Migration Review #28

Improving Health and Mortality Data for IDPs

Accurately measuring mortality rates and other indicators of health is an important means for targeting assistance for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and evaluating the impact of humanitarian responses. Yet data on health and mortality among IDPs are often non-existent, inaccurate and incomplete. Few data have broad geographical coverage across a region in conflict, often being collected in single or scattered locations. Many countries with a high number of IDPs have no IDP-specific health and mortality data published at all. Data are not amenable to comparison due to methodological differences in research design, data collection and analysis.

The relatively few epidemiological studies among IDPs consistently document rates of mortality, morbidity and deprivation well above emergency thresholds. For instance, a Médecins Sans Frontières survey of IDP camps in Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo estimated a crude mortality rate of 4.3 deaths 10,000 persons per day, quadruple the rate of 1.0 used by UNHCR to designate an emergency situation. A 2005 study conducted among IDPs in eastern Burma by Backpack Health Worker Team indicated a strong link between forced displacement and high rates of malaria and landmine injury. It also estimated a rate of childhood malnutrition among IDPs that was 3.1 times higher than the national rate, reflecting a serious lack of food security among displaced people after being separated from their land and resources. WHO and MSF surveys in Darfur confirm diarrhoea to be the single greatest cause of death. A WHO survey of IDPs in northern Uganda revealed the incidence of malaria to be on the rise; insecticide-treated bednet coverage – a crucial means of protection against the disease – was only 28% among children under five.

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