Care delivery among refugees and internally displaced persons affected by complex emergencies: a systematic review of the literature

Olabayo Ojeleke*, Wim Groot, Milena Pavlova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Aim This study reviews the empirical evidence on care delivery in complex emergencies (CEs) to better understand ways of improving care delivery and mitigating inequity in care among refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CEs. Subject and methods A systematic search was conducted in Web of Science, MEDLINE, PubMed and Embase. A manual search was conducted in the WHO Global Index Medicus and Google Scholar. Peer-reviewed English-language publications that reported results on care delivery in CEs were included for review. There was no limitation on the year or the geographical location of the studies. The content of the publications was qualitatively analysed, and the results are thematically presented in tabular form. Results Thirty publications were identified. Information regarding coverage, accessibility, quality, continuity and comprehensiveness of care service delivery was extracted and synthesized. Findings showed that constant insecurity, funding, language barriers and gender differences were factors impeding access to and coverage and comprehensiveness of care delivery in CEs. The review also showed a preference for traditional treatment among some refugees and IDPs. Conclusion Evidence from this systematic review revealed a high level of unmet healthcare need among refugees and IDPs and the need for a paradigm shift in the approach to care delivery in CEs. We recommend further research aimed at a more critical evaluation of care delivery in CEs with a view to providing a more innovative and context-specific care service delivery in these settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-762
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Complex emergencies
  • healthcare
  • Refugees
  • Displaced population
  • Conflict

Cite this