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Kidney Health in Times of Crisis

How do chronic kidney disease patients access necessary health care when the world around them is falling apart?

The World Health Organization meets this week to explore that very question. The WHO and Government of the Kingdom of Denmark are co-hosting a meeting to devise solutions for chronic kidney disease patients, and people living with other non-communicable diseases, during humanitarian crises.

WHO Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases & Humanitarian Crises

Chronic kidney disease affects more than 800 million people worldwide and contributes to the deaths of more than 19 million people across the globe each year. When a humanitarian crisis occurs, health care services for patients are disrupted, leading to increased morbidity and mortality.

To address challenges faced by vulnerable patients, the WHO’s global meeting is convening stakeholders including academics, advocates for refugees, health systems experts, members of UN agencies, and people living with noncommunicable diseases.

Attendees aim to:

  • Review emergency plans from around the world
  • Bridge the gap between the humanitarian response agenda and the health care agenda
  • Propose strategic methods to improve technical support through emergency preparedness, response and recovery

Chronic Kidney Disease & the Global Health Agenda

The WHO meeting marks a promising step forward.

Governments and policymakers can play a pivotal role in addressing the growing burden of chronic kidney disease by:

  • Facilitating earlier diagnosis. Whether it’s the best of times or a humanitarian emergency, people with chronic kidney disease, their caregivers, health systems, economies and the environment all benefit from earlier detection and treatment. Comprehensive screening programs that target high-risk populations can encourage better health outcomes and allow resources to be invested strategically to fill unmet needs.
  • Addressing chronic kidney disease care in humanitarian settings. When a flood, earthquake, armed conflict or pandemic occurs, health systems must ensure continuity of care and that people living with noncommunicable diseases do not get left behind. Mitigating the socioeconomic impact of chronic kidney disease and improving patient outcomes reduces the strain on health care systems during a humanitarian emergency.
  • Increasing collaboration among stakeholders. That includes governments, NGOs, health care providers and patient advocates collectively addressing the multifaceted challenges of preventing, diagnosing and treating noncommunicable diseases like chronic kidney disease in humanitarian settings. 

Vulnerable Patient Groups

Chronic kidney disease affects vulnerable populations disproportionately. Some of the groups most affected include refugees, internally displaced people and other marginalized groups that face barriers to accessing adequate health care.

Collaborative efforts across governments, UN agencies, humanitarian organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector can help to meet the complex needs of affected populations – allowing people with chronic kidney disease and other noncommunicable diseases to receive continuous care, even when the world around them is falling apart.