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UNHCR team up with MSD and ICN to bring better health to Africa's refugees


UNHCR has teamed up with the pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) to deliver the latest nursing knowledge and training to health professionals working with refugees in Africa.

“Refugees are among the world’s most vulnerable and excluded populations, and constantly face serious risks to their health,” said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin. “The health workers who work alongside UNHCR staff in the field rarely have up-to-date health care books and are far from well-furnished hospitals or expert advice on critical health issues. The access to current health information provided by the ICN / MSD Nursing Libraries and the related training will be a goldmine for them. This programme will help to fill a serious gap in refugee health care.”

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 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 coordinator 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.