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Confl Health. 2011 Sep 19;5(1):17. doi: 10.1186/1752-1505-5-17.

The burden of malaria in post-emergency refugee sites: A retrospective study.

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  • 1Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Almost two-thirds of refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and other persons affected by humanitarian emergencies live in malaria endemic regions. Malaria remains a significant threat to the health of these populations.


Data on malaria incidence and mortality were analyzed from January 2006 to December 2009 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Health Information System database collected at sites in Burundi, Chad, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Uganda. Data from three countries during 2006 and 2007, and all nine countries from 2008 to 2009, were used to describe trends in malaria incidence and mortality. Monthly counts of malaria morbidity and mortality were aggregated into an annual country rate averaged over the study period.


An average of 1.18 million refugees resided in 60 refugee sites within nine countries with at least 50 cases of malaria per 1000 refugees during the study period 2008-2009. The highest incidence of malaria was in refugee sites in Tanzania, where the annual incidence of malaria was 399 confirmed cases per 1,000 refugees and 728 confirmed cases per 1,000 refugee children younger than five years. Malaria incidence in children younger than five years of age, based on the sum of confirmed and suspected cases, declined substantially at sites in two countries between 2006 and 2009, but a slight increase was reported at sites within four of seven countries between 2008 and 2009. Annual malaria mortality rates were highest in sites in Sudan (0.9 deaths per 1,000 refugees), Uganda and Tanzania (0.7 deaths per 1000 refugees each). Malaria was the cause of 16% of deaths in refugee children younger than five years of age in all study sites.


These findings represent one of the most extensive reports on malaria among refugees in post-emergency sites. Despite declines in malaria incidence among refugees in several countries, malaria remains a significant cause of mortality among children younger than five years of age. Further progress in malaria control, both within and outside of post-emergency sites, is necessary to further reduce malaria incidence and mortality among refugees and achieve global goals in malaria control and elimination.

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