A neglected crisis

An estimated 134 million people will be affected by humanitarian crises in 2018,1 of whom 68.5 million are refugees or displaced persons. In 2017 alone, 16.2 million people were displaced, either for the first time or repeatedly.2 This means that one in every 110 people in the world today has been forced from their homes.

Emergencies are becoming increasingly protracted, with displacement sometimes measured in decades. The traditional humanitarian response, however, is short term and reactive, responding to the acute phase of the emergency. Chronic conditions and long-term prevention planning are therefore not part of the response. There is a striking lack of political focus, funding and support for treatment, care and prevention of NCDs in emergency settings, despite the burden that they pose on communities. Successful prevention, care and treatment of NCDs has economic benefits for families, business and society, reduces loss of life and upholds the right to health – and is absolutely necessary to address if governments are to reach their Sustainable Development Goal commitments of a 30 per cent reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2030. People affected by emergencies are  mong the most vulnerable populations in the world, so if calls for Universal Health Coverage are serious, then their needs must be prioritised.

2018 is an important year for NCDs; September sees a High-Level Meeting on NCDs during the United Nations General Assembly in New York – an opportunity for heads of state and government to recognise and commit to the need to act. The impact of humanitarian crises on NCDs must not be  neglected.


Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Humanitarian Settings


NCDs represent the primary cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Specific attention needs to be given to NCDs in fragile and crisis-affected contexts, where health systems, communities and individuals have even more difficulties in managing these diseases.

  • In 2018, an estimated 128 million people will be affected by humanitarian crises.
  • There are currently 25.4 million refugees and a further 43.1 million displaced people globally.
  • For these people, displacement is often measured in years or even decades.
  • NCD prevention, treatment and care must be integrated into the humanitarian response—and long-term, comprehensive health care should extend beyond the acute phase of an emergency.
  • To date, challenges related to NCDs in humanitarian crises have been unrecognized and inadequately addressed.



There is a significant, urgent upcoming opportunity to raise the profile of this issue.

The High-level Meeting (HLM) on NCDs will be held at the United Nations on 27 September.

At the HLM, countries will approve a Political Declaration on NCDs—a short document setting the trajectory for countries to take in tackling these diseases globally and nationally. Drafts of this Political Declaration will be negotiated at the United Nations and will be finalised in July. A Civil Society Interactive Hearing on NCDs is being held on 5 July in New York, with discussions then informing the negotiations of the Political Declaration.

The current draft of the Political Declaration contains no mention of NCDs in humanitarian crises.

We call on all those with influence over the negotiations on the Political Declaration—including Ministries of Health, Country Missions at the UN in New York, and civil society leaders speaking at the Interactive Hearing on NCDs on 5 July—to raise the issue of NCDs in humanitarian crises as a major and growing health threat to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations and ensure its inclusion in the Political Declaration.

If we are genuine in calls to provide Universal Health Coverage and to “leave no one behind”, NCDs in humanitarian crises simply cannot be ignored. The inclusion of NCDs in humanitarian crises in the Political Declaration would be a strong indicator to governments and donors to global health and development that this is a health emergency, deserving of much greater attention, funding and research.

Further Information

This document is an outcome of the “NCDs in Humanitarian Settings” Advocacy Bootcamp, which brought together 70 young professionals and established experts from 15 countries to identify points for advocacy and to suggest effective, multisectoral solutions in June 2018. Partners in the Bootcamp were the Danish Red Cross, NCDFREE, the IFRC, and the University of Copenhagen.

For further information or to collaborate on this important issue, please contact NCD Project manager, Anja Bjerregaard Christensen af anbch@rodekors.dk  or NCDFREE at hello@ncdfree.org.


Read more about the bootcamp here: