After having their lives torn apart by years of conflict, Syrian doctors and nurses joined the thousands who fled their country for safety in Turkey. Just when they thought they would never be able to resume their careers, Turkey and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a project to have them enter the Turkish healthcare workforce. One year after the government enacted a law allowing them to work, Syrian healthcare professionals are very grateful to the state.
"This project in Turkey was the salvation for Syrian doctors," says Muhammed Hattab, a Syrian doctor, in an interview with the WHO's media unit. "With this program, we felt like doctors for the first time in two years."
While the project offers both a way to continue their careers as doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, it also facilitates the refugees' access to health services. Although they are already offered free services, Syrians complain that the language barrier has posed a tough challenge.
"The training is not only a way to address language barriers, but a good example of the collaboration between the national and international partners in Turkey to help the integration of Syrian medical doctors, nurses and midwives to serve the community of refugees. We appreciate that [Turkey] ensures equitable access to health services, and we consider this a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the WHO, academia and the Ministry of Health an example for other countries accommodating a high numbers of refugees and migrants," said Dr. Pavel Ursu, the WHO Representative to Turkey, in a statement published on the international body's website.
The doctors and nurses underwent adaptation training before being granted certificates enabling them work in refugee health centers across Turkey exclusively catering to Syrian refugees.
Since its start in 2011, the Syrian conflict has evolved into an all-out civil war, from which Turkey has received about 3 million refugees. A small fraction of the refugees stay in modern camps set up in border cities, while the majority live in houses they rent or bought, often in decrepit, abandoned buildings.
As the conflict in Syria intensified and the prospect of a return for the refugees to their country dimmed, Turkey has stepped up its efforts for further refugee integration. Work permits were granted to the "guests" - the term informally used by the government in reference to the refugees - and since 2016, more than 380 Syrian doctors, and 360 nurses and midwives were trained to serve their expatriates in hundreds of clinics serving the refugees across Turkey.