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Lancet. 2002 Dec 14;360(9349):1927-34.

Health programmes and policies associated with decreased mortality in displaced people in postemergency phase camps: a retrospective study.

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International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch, Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.



An estimated 35 million people have been displaced by complex humanitarian emergencies. International humanitarian organisations define policies and provide basic health and nutrition programmes to displaced people in postemergency phase camps. However, many policies and programmes are not based on supporting data. We aimed to identify associations between age-specific mortality and health indicators in displaced people in postemergency phase camps and to define the programme and policy implications of these data.


In 1998-2000, we obtained and analysed retrospective mortality data for the previous 3 months in 51 postemergency phase camps in seven countries. We did multivariate regression with 18 independent variables that affect crude mortality rates (CMRs) and mortality rates in children younger than 5 years (<5 MRs) in complex emergencies. We compared these results with recommended emergency phase minimum indicators.


Recently established camps had higher CMRs and <5 MRs and fewer local health workers per person than did camps that had been established earlier. Camps that were close to the border or region of conflict or had longer travel times to referral hospitals had higher CMRs than did those located further away or with shorter travel times, and camps with less water per person and high rates of diarrhoea had higher <5 MRs than did those with more water and lower rates of diarrhoea. Distance to border or area of conflict, water quantity, and the number of local health workers per person exceeded the minimum indicators recommended in the emergency phase.


Health and nutrition policies and programmes for displaced people in postemergency phase camps should be evidence-based. Programmes in complex emergencies should focus on indicators proven to be associated with mortality. Minimum indicators should be developed for programmes targeting displaced people in postemergency phase camps.

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