About these refugee/displaced persons organizations
This a partial list of some websites for organizations that we've directly worked with in refugee settings and can vouch for. A number of excellent NGOs (non-governmental organizations) do great work that aren't listed here. Over the past 15 years, the quality of international responses (while still entirely inadequate) have dramatically improved. The better NGOs, including those listed here, have a public health orientation and their work is based on solid scientific and epidemiologic underpinnings. In addition they generally have the common-sense, organizational skills and guts to implement life-saving interventions in a refugee crisis situation. Go give them some money. They deserve it. Do it now.
There are still some NGOs out there that can't pour piss correctly out of a boot. They manage to either do little good or actually do harm. The efficiency and value of an organization is frequently inversely related to its self-promotion. Some (but by no means all) religion-based relief campaigns fall into this category. Other red-flags to look out for are rock concert fundraisers with prominent musicians, an emphasis on curative rather than preventive medicine, or expensive gimmicks (airplanes that fly to sites of disasters, hospital ships, etc). Do-gooding amateurs and doctors-on-vacation have no role in a humanitarian crisis. The good organizations are the professionals. They have a core staff that are dedicated and know what they are doing (which frequently increases the staff budget percentage in pie charts showing where their money goes).
Nonetheless, everyone has to start somewhere. The listed organizations and others frequently have openings for dedicated health professionals who want to enter into the field of refugee medicine. There are a wide-range of needs; frequently a sanitary engineer is needed more than a board-certified infectious disease specialist. In any case, you need to know before you go. Below are listed a sampling of articles that can be used as a starting place for your reading:
1. Iacopino V, Waldman RJ. War and health: from Solferino to Kosovo--the evolving role of physicians. Jama. 1999;282:479-81.
2. Toole MJ, Waldman RJ. The public health aspects of complex emergencies and refugee situations. Annu Rev Public Health. 1997;18:283-312.
3. Swerdlow DL, Malenga G, Begkoyian G, et al. Epidemic cholera among refugees in Malawi, Africa: treatment and transmission. Epidemiol Infect. 1997;118:207-14.
4. Haelterman E, Boelaert M, Suetens C, Blok L, Henkens M, Toole MJ. Impact of a mass vaccination campaign against a meningitis epidemic in a refugee camp. Trop Med Int Health. 1996;1:385-92.
5. Siddique AK, Salam A, Islam MS, et al. Why treatment centres failed to prevent cholera deaths among Rwandan refugees in Goma, Zaire [see comments]. Lancet. 1995;345:359-61.
6. Dowell SF, Toko A, Sita C, Piarroux R, Duerr A, Woodruff BA. Health and nutrition in centers for unaccompanied refugee children. Experience from the 1994 Rwandan refugee crisis. Jama. 1995;273:1802-6.
7. Roberts L, Toole MJ. Cholera deaths in Goma. Lancet. 1995;346:1431.
8. Burkholder BT, Toole MJ. Evolution of complex disasters. Lancet. 1995;346:1012-5.
9. Marfin AA, Moore J, Collins C, et al. Infectious disease surveillance during emergency relief to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Jama. 1994;272:377-81.
10. Toole MJ, Waldman RJ. Refugees and displaced persons. War, hunger, and public health. Jama. 1993;270:600-5.
11. Moore PS, Marfin AA, Quenemoen LE, et al. Mortality rates in displaced and resident populations of central Somalia during 1992 famine [see comments]. Lancet. 1993;341:935-8.
12. Toole MJ. Micronutrient deficiencies in refugees. Lancet. 1992;339:1214-6.
13. Glass RI, Claeson M, Blake PA, Waldman RJ, Pierce NF. Cholera in Africa: lessons on transmission and control for Latin America. Lancet. 1991;338:791-5.
14. Moore PS, Toole MJ, Nieburg P, Waldman RJ, Broome CV. Surveillance and control of meningococcal meningitis epidemics in refugee populations. Bull World Health Organ. 1990;68:587-96.
15. Toole MJ, Waldman RJ. Prevention of excess mortality in refugee and displaced populations in developing countries. Jama. 1990;263:3296-302.
16. Toole MJ, Steketee RW, Waldman RJ, Nieburg P. Measles prevention and control in emergency settings. Bull World Health Organ. 1989;67:381-8.
17. Rieder HL, Snider DE, Jr., Toole MJ, et al. Tuberculosis control in refugee settlements. Tubercle. 1989;70:127-34.
18. Toole MJ, Nieburg P, Waldman RJ, Person-Karell B. Adequacy of refugee relief rations [letter; comment]. Lancet. 1989;2:268.
19. Toole MJ, Nieburg P, Waldman RJ. The association between inadequate rations, undernutrition prevalence, and mortality in refugee camps: case studies of refugee populations in eastern Thailand, 1979-1980, and eastern Sudan, 1984-1985. J Trop Pediatr. 1988;34:218-24.
20. Nieburg P, Waldman RJ, Leavell R, Sommer A, DeMaeyer EM. Vitamin A supplementation for refugees and famine victims. Bull World Health Organ. 1988;66:689-97.