WHO’s Refugee Health Programme in Turkey touches human lives

Dr. Sefwan. Photo: WHO/Ali Saltan
Dr. Sefwan. Photo: WHO/Ali Saltan

Millions of refugees have fled Syria over the past 8 years of conflict. Today, many are seeking to build new lives elsewhere, including in neighbouring countries such as Turkey.

Dr Sefwan is one of thousands of health care professionals from Syria who had to abandon their careers and take refuge in Turkey. When he first arrived, it was not easy for him to imagine a life where he would ever have a chance to wear his white coat again.

WHO joined forces with the Ministry of Health of Turkey to provide Syrian health professionals like Dr Sefwan with trainings so that they could be integrated into the Turkish health system.

WHO’s Refugee Health Programme in Turkey, established in 2016, aims to support Turkey’s Ministry of Health in ensuring that Syrian refugees have access to culturally sensitive health services with the same standard as those offered to other residents and citizens. These efforts align directly with WHO’s target to ensure that 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of the Refugee Health Programme, WHO has supported the Turkish Ministry of Health in establishing and running 7 Refugee Health Training Centres which train Syrian health professionals who are later employed by the Ministry at 151 Migrant Health Centres across Turkey. The Syrian health professionals receive special training to work in the Turkish health system, including on-the-job training from Turkish health professionals who devote their time and skills to this programme.

Dr Sefwan became employed by the Ministry in the Izmir Refugee Health Training Centre where he could proudly wear his white coat again.

These Health Centres receive thousands of visits each month from Syrians who can access primary health care services for free and in their own language, provided by Syrian health professionals. On average, more than 48,000 health consultations are offered each month to Syrians of all ages in the Refugee Health Centres.

In 2019, the programme is being supported by the EU (EUTF), Government of Federal Republic of Germany (KfW), Government of Norway, US Department of State (BPRM) and the Government of Japan.