Healthcare on the move: the case of Syrian refugees

This Photovoice project explores healthcare for Syrian refugees in Greece and Jordan as the war in Syria enters its eighth year. Over 5 million refugees have fled the war since 2015, with most residing in countries neighbouring Syria; over one million refugees have made the dangerous journey to Europe via the Greek islands and children make up 37% of those who made this journey.

Our aim is to highlight the stories of these refugees as individuals experiencing challenging conditions in the camps and temporary homes and often reliant on healthcare by the third sector. We hope that through demonstrating the extreme challenges that refugees experience in accessing healthcare we can work towards redressing the narrative of othering that predominantly prevails in discussions around refugees.

Four of these photographs were taken by a talented Syrian photographer called Abdulazez Dhukan who was himself a refugee in Greece. He took consent from each of the participants (or the parents of children) with the understanding that the photographs would be used to highlight the plight of refugees.

Submitted by:

Dr Aula Abbara

Give me a hand

Children make up 37% of the almost 60,000 refugees in Greece and were often found playing in the camp. The camp’s conditions left them susceptible to communicable diseases and injuries relating to their environment. Many had mental health and emotional consequences as a result of their displacement.
Photographer: Abdulazez Dhukan

Staring into the fire

Conditions in Greece for the refugees in the winter could reach sub-zero temperatures. Refugees only had tents for shelter and to sleep in at night and there was often inadequate heating so they would have open fires to keep warm; children often presented to the medical clinics with burns, injuries and breathing problems.
Photographer: Abdulazez Dhukan

No one should be left behind

This gentleman typifies some of the older patients seen in the clinic. Syria had experienced an epidemiological transition to non-communicable diseases; with morbidity and mortality rates high from diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Screening for and managing these conditions effectively in transient populations is both challenging and expensive.
Photographer: Abdulazez Dhukan

A form of shelter

For a few months in the summer mosquitos created a health concern in the community due to (unfounded) concerns about malaria. However, the mosquitos did cause distress and discomfort from secondary bacterial infection. This child lies on the floor half under a net that was distributed.
Photographer: Abdulazez Dhukan

Life Saving Treatment

“Umm Rayan,” 54, suffers from renal failure, despite her condition she is always smiling and laughing. Funding for high cost chronic diseases can be challenging to obtain and maintain. Without this crucial treatment and without being able to access local health systems, these patients could die.
Photographer: Omar Braika, Syrian American Medical Society