World Refugee Day offers an annual opportunity to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees – including the more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
Before joining the Refugee Health Training Centre in Izmir, Turkey, in 2017 as Chief Doctor, Dr Umit Sezginer had devoted more than 10 years to delivering health care in several hospitals of this coastal city, but he felt he still had much to give to support the Syrian population in Turkey.
Language, however, was a significant barrier. He had never worked closely with anyone speaking a different language. At first, Turkish health-care workers could not communicate easily with Syrian patients and interpretation was doubling the time required for consultations. Umit explains, “This can become tiring for both the doctor and the patient, and more importantly, it can lead to miscommunication during medical examinations.”
This scenario changed with the introduction of a programme that trains Syrian health professionals to work in the Turkish health system, alongside Turkish colleagues. Now, working hand in hand with Syrian doctors at the centre, his Syrian colleagues are health professionals trained by the World Health Organization, to serve in the Turkish health system and provide health services in Arabic to their fellow nationals.
World Refugee Day is an opportunity to remember that the human right to health means leaving no one behind, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, age, country of origin or legal status. This is what Turkish health professionals demonstrate every day with their dedicated support to their Syrian colleagues. The WHO Refugee Health Programme in Turkey established this synergy and human bond. This would have not been possible without the generous contributions of partners supporting the Programme: Germany, through KfW Development Bank; the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis; the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the United States Department of State; and the Government of Japan.