Partnership story

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Merck, ICN and UNHCR provide up-to-date health information for refugee camps

In 2003, UNHCR identified lack of access to up-to-date health information as a serious impediment to the delivery of high quality health care in refugee camps. Merck and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) had established a project to bring Mobile Libraries containing health information to remote rural locations. They then teamed up with UNHCR to pilot this work in Tanzania. Merck and the ICN plan to work with UNHCR to expand the project to other refugee locations. Merck has also agreed to support UNHCR’s work on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa.

The ready-made portable libraries include the latest nursing and health care information and provide training to better meet refugee health needs. The libraries were developed in 2001 to provide up-to-date nursing and health information to nurses as well as to other health care staff working in remote areas in developing countries so they can better serve their communities. In 2004, UNHCR joined ICN / MSD in a pilot project that provided 12 of the libraries to refugee-affected areas in north-west Tanzania – eight in refugee camps and four in surrounding districts.

Following the success of that pilot scheme, the three partners are now expanding the project by sending 50 libraries to refugee-affected areas in Tanzania and Zambia. Of these, about 40 will be located in refugee camps and 10 in surrounding districts. Each library will be managed by a local co-ordinator under the supervision of UNHCR field staff and national nurses’ associations. Over the next five years, the goal is to reach nurses and other health workers in refugee settings across Africa, improving the quality of care for millions of people.