Turkey is the country hosting the largest number of refugees in the world. The WHO Emergency Operation team in Ankara supports the Ministry of Health in dealing with the protracted Syrian refugee emergency. In line with the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), activities focus on strengthening national health system to cope with an additional three million people by expanding culturally-sensitive primary healthcare, providing immunization services, addressing mental health needs, and leading the health sector response.
A specific area of intervention was identified in Primary Health Care, providing linguistic and culturally sensitive healthcare was a crucial step in the humanitarian response. In order to do so, an innovative approach was adopted: the doctors and nurses needed to serve the three million refugee population would have been identified among the Syrian themselves. This approach was directly addressing linguistic barriers and human resources need, empowering and building resilience for refugees and host communities.
In order to do so the Turkish Government, in consultation from WHO, has drafted a law in 2016, which authorizes Syrian health professionals to provide medical treatment to Syrian refugees in Turkey. To accommodate this, the Ministry of Health (MoH) planned to open Refugee Health Centers (RHCs) in approximately 260 locations across Turkey.
Within these RHCs, approximately 700 Refugee Health Units (RHUs) are being established (primary health care centers), each to be staffed with one Syrian doctor and one Syrian nurse to treat Syrian patients under the supervision of Provincial Public Health Directorates. In these RHCs, medical services to Syrian patients are currently provided by Turkish doctors with the assistance of translators.
Before the Syrian health professionals can work in these RHCs, they need to successfully complete a WHO training programme, which serves to qualify the Syrian health care providers to obtain their work permits. The training is both theoretical and practical, the latter takes place in the Refugee Health Training Centers (RHTCs). The trainings aim to teach the health personnel how to operate in the Turkish national health system. In 2017, WHO provided adaption classroom trainings to approximately 750 Syrian doctors and 500 Syrian nurses. Approximately 500 of them also completed the six-week joint WHO-MoH practical trainings in Refugee Health Training Centers, enabling them to obtain a work permit and to be recruited by the Ministry to serve in ‘Refugee Health Centres’ (PHC units all across Turkey). Recruitment is ongoing (approx. 300 already hired) and in 2017 the seven Refugee Health Training Centers have been continuously providing linguistically- and culturally-sensitive consultations to refugees and migrants.