WHO kicks off Summer School on Refugee and Migrant Health with global participation, broad support

WHO/Paolo di Pietro

Cooperation and knowledge-sharing a promising start for progress in refugee and migrant health

This week WHO/Europe launched its first annual Summer School on Refugee and Migrant Health in Syracuse, Italy. The course, focused on managing the public health aspects of migration, welcomed participants and representatives from 30 countries around the world, including government officials and academia. All are committed to a collaborative process for making progress in health and migration.

With over 1.3 million people having arrived to Europe by the Mediterranean Sea since 2015, and almost 3 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, the Summer School is a timely and critical tool for proactively addressing the public health response to the migration phenomenon.

The week-long course stimulates the transfer of expert-driven knowledge, facilitates intercountry collaboration and strengthens capacity within countries. It also links theory and practice by combining key lectures and panel discussions with a practical simulation in which Italian authorities and nongovernmental organizations share their experience and expertise in dealing with the arrival of refugees and migrants by the Mediterranean Sea.

“This Summer School will transform a problem into an opportunity by allowing key players to learn from and teach one another,” said Dr Santino Severoni, Coordinator of the Public Health and Migration Programme at WHO/Europe and designer of the Summer School, during his opening statement to officially launch the course.

“We have built a platform where the best knowledge is available to key people working in the health and migration arena, enabling the establishment of a network to expand the critical mass of experts who understand the complex aspects of migration,” he continued.

Experts from the Ministry of Health of Italy, nonprofit organizations, higher education institutes and other United Nations entities also gave opening keynote lectures. They set a tone of hope and vast potential, while also emphasizing the shared responsibility across Europe and beyond to work together for improvement. Many reinforced the need for cross-sectoral collaboration and sharing of information to establish improved systems for addressing migrant health care.

Response to the Summer School has been overwhelmingly positive; participants gain interactive knowledge, hands-on experience and understanding from experts from around the world, and from numerous disciplines related to refugee and migrant health.