War in Ukraine Spurs Medical and Mental Health Crises for Refugees and Those Displaced

Published March 18, 2022

Physician Kim Griswold is an expert on health care for diverse patient populations, including for refugees, immigrants and survivors of torture.

Ukrainians fleeing to other countries, and individuals and families displaced within Ukraine, are facing an incredible amount of stress and trauma, as well as a lack of critical medical supplies and care, says Griswold, a professor emerita of family medicine and psychiatry at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

“We are witnessing, a brutal conflict within a country of destroyed infrastructure, including hospitals and other health care facilities,” said Griswold. “Medicines needed for chronic care conditions are often unobtainable. Acute and emergency care services are limited and may be directed to war zones. The disruption of care for COVID sufferers and those vulnerable is incalculable. Mitigation of viral spread is impossible given the conditions of crowding and lack of sanitation,” she said.

She is also worried about future mental health issues of refugees and how they will be welcomed by their new country.

“We have seen the global effects of COVID-19 and isolation on mental health,” she said. “The crisis in Ukraine, and the trauma and loss associated with it, will have immediate and long-term devastating effects on emotional well-being.

Though some countries have responded with compassion and welcome, Griswold said that migrants still face obstacles in border countries, particularly in under-resourced areas.

“We continue to see the harsh effects of racial and ethnic disparities adversely impacting individuals seeking safety at borders. This current conflict does present huge questions and challenges for countries already grappling with immigration reform, the status of refugees and the countless people who seek asylum world-wide. This situation demands concerted efforts of global organizations focused on health care, human rights, justice, and health equity.