Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Child health in complex emergencies

William J Moss, Meenakshi Ramakrishnan, Dory Storms, Anne Henderson Siegle, William M Weiss, Ivan Lejnev, & Lulu Muhed

ABSTRACT

Coordinated and effective interventions are critical for relief efforts to be successful in addressing the health needs of children in situations of armed conflict, population displacement, and/or food insecurity. We reviewed published literature and surveyed international relief organizations engaged in child health activities in complex emergencies. Our aim was to identify research needs and improve guidelines for the care of children. Much of the literature details the burden of disease and the causes of morbidity and mortality; few interventional studies have been published. Surveys of international relief organizations showed that most use World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and ministry of health guidelines designed for use in stable situations. Organizations were least likely to have formal guidelines on the management of asphyxia, prematurity, and infection in neonates; diagnosis and management of children with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; active case-finding and treatment of tuberculosis; paediatric trauma; and the diagnosis and management of mental-health problems in children. Guidelines often are not adapted to the different types of health-care workers who provide care in complex emergencies. Evidence-based, locally adapted guidelines for the care of children in complex emergencies should be adopted by ministries of health, supported by WHO and UNICEF, and disseminated to international relief organizations to ensure appropriate, effective, and uniform care.

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