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Refugee Care: Emergency Phase


Despite skilled negotiation when conflict appears imminent, the pre-emergency phase, diplomatic forces often fail. Conflict irrupts. Civilians are threatened with violence, repression, hunger, and disease. Faced with little alternative, they flee their homes seeking immediate safety, commonly traveling by foot with only the barest of possessions or provisions.


On Thursday, February 20, 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine with air, ground, and see offensives. Threatened with their lives, at least 1 million Ukrainians – almost exclusively women and children – fled the country westward towards safety in the European Union. Entering the fourth week of war, the number of international refugees has swelled to over 3 million.


Now begins the Emergency Phase. Imagine yourself tasked with the responsibility to provide care for tens of thousands displaced persons arriving every day. What can you anticipate they will need? Immediately, shelter from the elements. In the case of Ukrainians, protection from the bitter cold. They will be hungry. Food insecurity is a hallmark of refugee flight. Many will be acutely ill with pneumonia, dysentery, and traumatic injuries. Those with chronic diseases, such as heart failure and chronic lung disease, will be without their medications and suffering exacerbations.


You as the refugee care leader must also be prepared to deliver their babies, care for their newborns, and manage the emergency complications. Yes, refugee women will deliver on schedule just like the rest of humanity. And you must also prevent and monitor for acute contagious diseases which flourish among marginalized people in close living quarters: measles, scabies, COVID-19.


If the crisis continues for weeks or months, and people are not able to return to their homes, then a new set of needs must also be addressed as we next into the Maintenance Phase.

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