WHO exhibition tells story of Syrian health-care professionals in Turkey

EU Delegation Turkey/ Diego Cuppolo

A breakthrough art exhibition, “A new beginning”, opened in Ankara on 20 November 2018 for 4 days to tell the stories of hundreds of Syrian health-care workers who have found a new life and career in Turkey. WHO developed the exhibition with the generous support of the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis.

The Refugee Health Programme: an unprecedented example of inclusion

“A new beginning” is rooted in the results of the Refugee Health Programme in Turkey. The programme was established by WHO in 2016 to support the Turkish Ministry of Health in providing health services to Syrian refugees at the same standards as those offered to Turkish citizens.

“The collaboration between WHO and Turkey has produced a public health programme in the true spirit of universal health coverage and leaving no one behind,” says Dr Pavel Ursu, WHO Representative in Turkey. “Not only does the Refugee Health Programme expand access to health-care services to all Syrians, but it is also an example of the adaptation of Syrian health professionals to the health system of the host country. As such, it is truly unprecedented.”

The challenge and the solution

Turkey currently hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, including 3.5 million Syrians. The Syrian community has encountered challenges in communicating with health-care providers in Turkey, particularly due to language and cultural barriers that often emerge in the exchange of information.

The innovation of the health system response to the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey is that Syrian patients receive good-quality, affordable, culturally sensitive health services in their own language from Syrian doctors, nurses and midwives. At the same time, Syrian health-care workers receive training to integrate them into the Turkish health system and have the opportunity to start a new life and career.

The Refugee Health Programme in numbers

With the European Union funding, in 2018 WHO has trained:

  • 54 Syrian doctors and 100 nurses to serve in the Turkish health system;
  • 342 Arabic-Turkish interpreters to serve as patient guides to Syrian refugees;
  • 203 Syrian and Turkish health workers in mental health care to respond to the specific needs of Syrian refugees.

In 2018, 447 Syrian health-care workers received continued medical education to enhance their knowledge of the Turkish health system, and 128  health facility support staff were hired. WHO also supports 7 refugee health training centres, where Syrian health-care staff receive on-the-job training, providing consultations to other Syrian refugees in primary health care, maternal and child health, routine immunization and internal medicine. On average, more than 48 000 health consultations are offered in these centres per month.

In 2018, the programme was funded with the support of the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the Government of Federal Republic of Germany (KfW), the Government of Norway and the United States Department of State (Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration).