This year, the world reached a grim milestone: the highest number of displaced people ever recorded has been topped again. At the end of 2023, more than 117 million people around the world were forced to leave home, an 8 percent increase over the previous year. Put differently, that means that 1 person out of every 69 has been displaced. Similarly, the global refugee crisis has continued to escalate too. In 2023, 43.4 million people were recorded as refugees. Just 10 years ago, that number was a third of what it is now.

The rising number of refugees makes a day like World Refugee Day especially critical. Each June, humanitarian organizations and compassionate people come together for World Refugee Day. It’s a chance to honor the experience of people seeking refuge in other countries. And it’s a chance to learn, reflect, and remember that refugees are an important part of our global community.

At Medical Teams, many of the people we serve are refugees. As an organization, we’re responding to the global refugee crisis through all of our country programs. Considering the overwhelming statistics of the global refugee crisis can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that each “million” is made up of “one.”

Read on to see how we’re reaching out to refugees with open hearts and hands, and what you can do to help!

What is a refugee crisis?

A refugee crisis happens when a large number of people are forced to leave home and find refuge elsewhere, often in a dangerous situation. The “crisis” aspect comes into play in a few different circumstances. For example, a refugee crisis might refer to a large number of people seeking refuge within their own country, as in Sudan or Ukraine. It might reference how a country of arrival is unprepared to host a large number of people seeking refuge. A refugee crisis could also refer to the danger people face while on the move, such as when people cross deserts or make long journeys on foot.

In almost all cases, people who are refugees leave with very few — or none — of their possessions. They are forced to make nearly instant decisions to flee, often to save their own lives. In addition, they rarely have access to food, clean water, or medical care while on the way to safety. They may struggle to get their basic needs met even when they arrive somewhere safer.

One important thing to note is that it isn’t the ‘refugee’ themselves that are the problem. All people are deserving of safety, care, and opportunity. Any refugee crisis is only an issue because there aren’t adequate resources or infrastructure for the people, not the people themselves.

That’s where Medical Teams comes in.

Here are a few ways we reach out to refugees and help care for our global neighbors.


Neighbors like Naylin and her family need health care. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Colombia hosts close to 3 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Venezuela’s dramatic economic collapse — which lead to basic necessities like food and medicine becoming difficult to obtain — also created an increase in crime and violence. Today, more than 6 million people have fled the country and settled elsewhere in South America and further abroad. Though Colombia has been a generous host and worked to integrate refugees to avoid a crisis, there is still much work to be done.

Our focus in Colombia has always been on finding creative and innovative solutions to the problems many refugees and migrants face. They’re mothers like Naylin, who was terrified her young daughters would die in Venezuela after barely surviving Dengue fever without care. Unwilling to risk their daughters’ lives, she and her husband moved to Colombia for the opportunity to work and access health care. When she first brought her children to a Medical Teams clinic, she felt an overwhelming sense of relief.

In Colombia, one way we reach out to refugees through our community health volunteer network. Community health volunteers — often refugees or migrants themselves — go door-to-door, helping connect their neighbors to care. They offer resources and assistance, bring vouchers for hygienic supplies, and serve as a friendly face during challenging times.


Ethiopia, home to the second largest population of displaced people in Africa, has a multi-faceted refugee crisis. Violent conflict in the Tigray region forced many Ethiopians to seek refuge in other, safer regions of the country. Additionally, conflict in Sudan and Somalia – neighboring countries to Ethiopia – have also forced people to leave home in search of safety in Ethiopia. A particularly troubling element of the refugee crisis is that more than 80% of refugees from outside of Ethiopia are women and children.

That’s why we’ve been in Ethiopia since 2021, with an emphasis on maternal and child health care. They’re women like Letish, who struggled with a severe case of mastitis that led to an infection in her breast. Before Medical Teams established a clinic, she had little access to health care. Though she was nervous to see a doctor, she quickly began recovering and felt more optimistic about her future. Today, she works in the Medical Teams clinic!

In Ethiopia, this is the kind of care we’re committed to providing. Our mobile health and nutrition teams are adaptable and resourceful, treating everything from diabetes to malaria. Even though our team is faced with an increasingly complex humanitarian environment, we continue to reach out to refugees with loving, life-saving medical care.


Sarah struggled with a complicated pregnancy after fleeing persecution. Photo by Suhaila Stanthon Thawer.

As a stable neighbor to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, Tanzania hosts just over 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in both countries. Though it’s a relatively small population of people, the need for medical care and infrastructure is immense. Most refugees live in either Nduta or Nyarugusu Camp. Both are in a more rural part of the country. When conflict broke out in Tanzania’s neighboring countries, the influx of refugees into this remote region quickly became a crisis.

In 2018, Medical Teams established our first clinics in Tanzania. The need was clear: people needed access to health care, for everything from chronic conditions to prenatal care. They’re mothers like Sarah, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with her family. Her husband, a priest, was beaten and threatened by a political party for preaching about peace. They made it to the safety of Tanzania, and were overjoyed when Sarah became pregnant again. But they didn’t know where to get health care, until a neighbor told Sarah about Medical Teams.

Today, one thing our team in Tanzania is celebrating is 4 straight years of no maternal deaths in the camps we serve for women like Sarah! Our maternal care program reaches out to expecting mothers who are refugees through a coordinated system of care. We educate, provide support to, and work with mothers long after they’ve given birth.


It’s hard to overstate how dire the humanitarian situation is in Sudan. After a year of brutal civil war, it’s now estimated now estimated that nearly half of Sudan’s population — close to 25 million people — need humanitarian help. More than 8 million people have been forced to leave home by the violence. Of those, more than 6 million stayed in Sudan and have moved to refugee camps within the country for safety. Additionally, there are many refugees from other countries who sought safety in Sudan prior to the start of the war.

Medical Teams established care in Sudan prior to the conflict to care for refugees, many of them from northern Ethiopia. They’re fathers like Burhani, who walked for 3 days to reach the safety of Sudan to protect his young son after war broke out in Ethiopia. After reaching Sudan, Burhani and his family received medical care from Medical Teams and our partner organization, ZOA. But now, violence is threatening people like Burhani’s lives again.

Despite the instability and insecurity the conflict has created, Medical Teams is still dedicated to caring. Many organizations have been unable to continue working in Sudan after running into operational challenges. After the start of the war, we expanded our services in response to the refugee crisis brought about by the conflict. As more and more Sudanese people sought refuge, camps quickly became overcrowded.

Today, one of the ways we’re reaching out to refugees is by offering malnutrition treatment to mothers and children. As famine-like conditions continue to ravage Sudan, malnutrition rates are continuing to rise. Additionally, we’re working hard to prevent community health measures to help fight disease outbreaks brought about by crowded conditions in the camps.


Florance and Fitimukiza and their three young children sit together in their garden.
Florance and Fitimukiza have built a new life and grown their family in Uganda. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Uganda hosts the largest population of refugees in Africa. More than 1.5 million people have taken refuge within its borders. Primarily, refugees are coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. That said, different disasters across the continent — from disease outbreaks to conflict — have continued to compound the refugee crisis in Uganda.

Medical Teams is celebrating our 20-year anniversary of caring for refugees in Uganda this fall. It has been an honor and blessing to walk alongside so many people in the last 2 decades. They’re women like Florance, who was terrified of losing her son to malaria and malnutrition after her father died in the war she fled from. When her son recovered, with Medical Teams’ help, she turned her pain into power and became an empowering force for her community.

Medical Teams reaches out to refugees through extensive programming in Uganda. From primary health care to two of the only Neonatal Intensive Care Units in refugee settlements in the world, we’re providing well-rounded medical care to people in Uganda. One powerful statistic? We have over 1,600 volunteers who help their neighbors through our community health worker program!


After 3 years of war, the humanitarian situation in Ukraine has also become increasingly dire. More than 14 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian assistance of some kind. More than 3.5 million people are displaced within Ukraine, and more than 5 million people have left the country. Of refugees, nearly 80% are women and children.

Medical Teams responded quickly at the outset of the war in 2021. The need was immense: families needed health care, supplies, and counseling as their lives were changed completely by war. They’re mothers like Anna, who worries for her 4-year-old daughter, Eva. She became quiet and withdrawn when the war began. But after attending kindergarten and art therapy sessions with Medical Teams, Eva is back to her playful and joyful self.

Providing counseling and therapy through art and support groups is one way we’re reaching out to refugees in Ukraine. After experiencing deeply distressing events, many people are struggling to process their grief or feel hopeful for the future. Medical Teams providers are coming alongside people to remind them that they’re not alone.

Reaching out to refugees

On World Refugee Day and every day, Medical Teams is committed to caring for people during refugee crises. Often, health care is a path toward hope for the people we serve. Only when our basic needs are met, and we feel the comfort of another person caring for us, can we begin to truly heal.

You can help people seeking refuge in other countries by joining The Pulse, our monthly giving program! Making a monthly donation makes it possible for us to quickly respond when crisis erupts.