Responding to Changing Health Needs in Protracted Crises: Learning from the case of NCDs in Syrian refugees

On August 2 – 3, 2018, local and international experts gathered at the American University of Beirut for a workshop focused on the response to the complex health needs of Syrian refugees in protracted crises, particularly in relation to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Co-organized by the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and ICAP at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the two-day workshop, entitled Responding to Changing Health Needs in Protracted Crises: Learning from the case of NCDs in Syrian refugees, brought together public health professionals and scholars to discuss research findings on the response to NCD needs of refugees, and to stimulate interdisciplinary dialogue on programmatic and policy implications and future research priorities.

More than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, with over 5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey as a result of the ongoing conflict. This protracted crisis has had critical health implications for displaced persons, particularly in relation to the management and treatment of NCDs in already strained health systems in hosting countries. The Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut, in collaboration with the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, carried out a research project led by Drs. Fouad Fouad and Hala Ghattas, to assess the burden of NCDs among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey; the current systems of care for NCDs in refugees; and the successes and challenges in health systems responses in addressing health needs in complex emergencies.


FHS Dean Nuwayhid and Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Professor at Columbia University and founder of ICAP, opened the workshop by highlighting the dire need for utilizing findings from this research initiative to tackle NCDs among vulnerable displaced persons. Faculty members presented quantitative and qualitative findings on the health systems response to NCDs in refugees in neighboring countries, followed by in-depth, interactive discussions with workshop attendees, who shared insight and expertise based on their work with non-profit organizations, government and academic institutions.

This included highlighting both successes and remaining gaps in the health systems response, including challenges with continuity of care and sustainability, and the need for preventive approaches in NCD care. The workshop ended with fruitful discussions on research priorities and ways forward in addressing NCDs in complex emergencies, and the potential for further collaboration among participants.​