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Fifteen-minute consultation: What do paediatricians need to know about child refugee and migrant health needs?
  1. Aoife Ryan1,
  2. Alison Kelly2
  1. 1Department of General Paediatrics, Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Department of Community Paediatrics, Skylark Child Development Centre, Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aoife Ryan, Department of General Paediatrics, Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, G51 4TF, UK; aoife.ryan2{at}

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Increasing numbers of refugees have entered Europe over recent years, reflective of international crises caused by conflict in Afghanistan, Syria and the Horn of Africa. Approximately one-third are children and young people aged under 18 years, many unaccompanied. These individuals often arrive at their most vulnerable following hazardous journeys with complex healthcare needs.1 2

In 2019, more than two-thirds of the global refugee population originated from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. In the same year, only 0.5% of the world’s refugees had successfully resettled elsewhere.3

By 2020, around 82.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their homes. Of these, 26.4 million were refugees, while 48 million were internally displaced within their country of origin. Eighty-six per cent of the world’s refugees are hosted within low-income countries. The UK is home to roughly 1% of global refugees.4

Nearly 7.7 million Ukrainians (ie, one in six) have been internally displaced since the Russian invasion of the country began in February 2022. As of October 2022, almost 14 million refugees have fled Ukraine, two-thirds of whom are children.4

Unaccompanied children arriving in the UK should be offered an initial health assessment through the statutory requirement for looked-after children. However, accompanied children and young people may present to a range of services (including general, community or acute paediatric services); it is therefore imperative that all paediatricians are equipped to identify and manage the unmet health needs of these children and young people. Table 1 delineates the terminology used to describe such individuals.

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Table 1

Glossary of useful terms for health professionals2 4 5

This article aims to highlight the important initial issues to consider when assessing a child or young person with unmet health needs while directing them to useful resources and appropriate services. A …

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  • Contributors AR conceived the idea for this article and drafted the initial manuscript. AK provided comprehensive review and editorial. Both authors contributed to the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.