Each of Us Have a Role to Play in Creating a Sustainable and Healthy Future for the World’s Refugees

Guest post by Stanley M. Bergman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Henry Schein, Inc. who spoke at the 19 September UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. 

The United Nations General Assembly gathered last week to focus a bright light on the over 65 million people who are displaced worldwide. One message was clear: sympathy for the plight of refugees simply is not enough.

Every sector of society shares a responsibility to address the root causes of the crisis. One may ask why the private sector should devote so much time and resources to giving back to communities in need around the world. Simply put: we have a moral obligation to act, and it is in our enlightened self-interest to do so. Business cannot succeed in failed societies.

During times of displacement, emergency assistance to meet basic human needs is critical. While these needs are many, ensuring access to health care is of fundamental importance. Health is, in many ways, the overlooked building block critical to supporting other basic needs and rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Further, health care for vulnerable populations must go beyond access to emergency services. Given that the journey for refugees and migrants often takes many years, and the fact that noncommunicable diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide, access to primary health care must be addressed within the overall conversation. Access to health care must also include a special focus on the unique needs of women and girls, who are often the most at-risk. Lastly, it is critical to remember that our collective responsibility does not end when refugees arrive in their destination country.

Working toward creating a truly sustainable, secure, and healthy future for the world’s refugees cannot be the job of any one sector. International, multi-sectoral cooperation is the only effective solution. Although public-private partnership is certainly not a new concept, the world’s full embracing of the true value that the private sector can contribute is only just beginning to be realized.

There is a critical contribution for the private sector to make if given the opportunity to be a true partner of governments, international governmental organizations, NGOs and civil society. Harnessing the full power of this collaborative model means engaging the private sector beyond traditional charitable donations, to leverage the unique expertise and competencies businesses possess. At Henry Schein, we have seen first-hand the results that these types of innovative public private partnerships can yield and have demonstrated proof of this model through our work with the United Nations World Food Programme, WHO, World Bank and our valued supplier partners to develop the Global Supply Network for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. We have made a common commitment to help send a broader message that our collective impact is exponentially greater than any of us acting alone.

In the decade since Thomas Friedman said that the “world is flat,” ease of travel and telecommunications have enabled the highest degree of interconnectedness ever experienced by humankind. “Global” and “local” are more intertwined than ever, and the plight of refugees is the plight of us all. Each of us must have the courage to stand up and do our part. And we must do so in partnership with one another.

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Stanley M. Bergman is Chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., a Fortune 500® company and the world’s largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners, with more than 19,000 team members and operations or affiliates in 33 countries. www.henryschein.com. Mr. Bergman addressed the United Nations General Assembly Summit for Refugees and Migrants plenary session on the vulnerabilities refugees face on their journey on 19n September, 2016.

 

NBC show Revolution Closes in on Reality of Refugees

Scene from Revolution episode

Scene depicting a refugee camp from from episode 5 of Revolution’s second season. Credit: NBC Revolution.

NBC dramatic science fiction series Revolution shows how desperate whole communities can become when forced from their homes by conflict. A scene from Season 2-Episode 5 “ONE RIOT, ONE RANGER” in the Savannah refugee camp depicts a scramble for a limited number of places to a new camp with “artesian wells” and “closed sewers,” luxuries for the masses living in this camp. 

Unfortunately, in today’s world millions of refugees around the world struggle with just such realities. For example, since the conflict in Syria exploded two years ago, over two million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries – many to makeshift camps. They suffer similar conditions to the refugees in Revolution and their conditions will get worse as their numbers swell.

Refugee camp Zaatari in Jordan housing Syrian refugees.

“The war is now well into its third year and Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs,” the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement released last month. “This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Syria had become “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.” He added that “the only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.”

More than 97 percent of Syria’s refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies. They urgently need massive international support to help deal with the crisis.War Lords and Child Soldiers

Special Envoy Angelina Jolie warned that “the world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster. The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications. If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighbouring countries could be brought to the point of collapse.”

The 2 million people flooding out of Syria are among the more than 15 million refugees the UN supports around the world. You can stay informed, donate and spread the word.

Follow our Twitter updates via @UN during Season 2 of Revolution. We will continue to highlight some of the facts and real-life challenges depicted in Revolution, and present fans of the show with opportunities to learn more and make a difference.