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How access to essential medicines makes a difference in refugee and displaced communities

Many factors cause people to migrate, and while some do so voluntarily, many are forced out of their homes and countries for reasons such as natural disasters, economic challenges, conflict and extreme poverty.

According to the UNHCR, in 2020, 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of conflict, persecution, human rights violations and violence.

Right now, we are witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, including 26.4 million refugees, 48.0 million internally displaced people and 4.1 million asylum-seekers, and as conflicts continue and the impacts of climate change worsen year after year, this number is only expected to increase.

Approximately 22% of the world’s refugee population (an estimated 6.6 million people) live in refugee camps, and while these are temporary safe havens, they come with their own set of problems. People in refugee camps often face hostility in their new communities, as more people means more competition for available resources, such as food and medicines.

Having so many people living in close quarters also means that the impacts of contagious diseases (like COVID-19) can be devastating and nearly impossible to contain, especially as local health systems are overburdened with people and lack resources. This poses a major threat to global health.

How HPIC is supporting refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs)

HPIC’s provision of medicines and medical supplies to refugee camps in Malawi and Iraqi Kurdistan is helping reduce the burden on local health systems.

Iraqi Kurdistan

Since 2011, an estimated 16 million people have been displaced from Syria and Iraq as a result of civil war, of which 2 million have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), refugees and IDPs now represent 28% of the autonomous region’s total population.

The health centres in and around the refugee camps were already struggling, and the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation. Many of the clinics were already lacking basic medicines such as pain killers.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, HPIC sent 180 Emergency Humanitarian Medical Kits (108,000 treatments) consisting of essential medicines to Kurdistan, providing much-needed aid for refugees and IDPs.


When the Dzaleka Health Centre ran out of medicines for patients in critical condition, HPIC stepped in with a shipment of medicines that arrived in time, avoiding interruptions to individuals and families that urgently needed healthcare.

Dzaleka Health Centre services over 70,000 individuals within and around Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, Malawi, exceeding its absorption capacity by over 300 percent. The onset of COVID-19 coupled with overpopulation and medicine shortages resulted in conflicts and hostility breaking out between refugees in the camp and local Malawians.

To date, HPIC has sent over 32,000 treatments – including antibiotics, antihypertensives, analgesics – to Dzaleka throughout 2020 and 2021. Learn more about how these medicine provisions reduced tensions in and around the camp.

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