High-Level Meeting on Health and Migration in the WHO European Region was Held in Istanbul


"High-level Meeting on Health and Migration in the WHO European Region", which was organized with the cooperation of World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health, was held in İstanbul. The video message by President Erdoğan was displayed at the meeting.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the meeting via video message. Pointing out that the destruction caused by the outbreak on the fragile parts of the society reached to the serious level, Erdoğan stated “There is no doubt that the foremost among these are refugees and irregular migrants, who have to leave their countries behind. The refugees, who are trying to survive through harsh conditions in the countries they have immigrated, are receded into background, marginalised much more and even exposed to discrimination.”

“We have provided healthcare access, without exception, for every refugee”

President Erdoğan highlighted that while Turkish citizens received first-class healthcare service, Türkiye also shared all of its opportunities with the people in need during this critical period of time. Expressing that medical equipment and critical material support were provided to 160 countries and 12 international organizations that requested from Türkiye, during the outbreak, Erdoğan added:

“We have provided healthcare services, without exception, for every refugee. We have implemented ‘Leaving No One Behind’ commitment of United Nations from the very first day.”

“We wish that inequalities would end soon.”   

Stating that the outbreak revealed the injustices and deviances of the global system, Erdoğan said “We wish that inequalities in the global system, especially health and security, would end soon. The activities of new action plan to be carried out in the field of migration and health in the WHO Regional Office for Europe are very valuable. I hope that the meeting, held in a place where 3 million people were added to 85 million refugees in just 3 weeks, will pave the way for new ideas and new solutions.”

“185 Migrant Health Centres have been launched to operate in 29 provinces.”   

Minister of Health Dr. Fahrettin Koca expressed his appreciation on organizing this meeting in Türkiye which has been hosting the highest number of refugees according to UN data.

Minister Koca emphasized that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Türkiye had provided the same healthcare services to Syrian refugees, without any discrimination in the quality and service. He also added:

“185 Migrant Health Centre have been launched to operate in 29 provinces so as to increase the access to the basic health services. Approximately 4 thousand Syrian healthcare professionals including 787 physicians, 34 dentists, 1149 nurses, who had to migrate to Türkiye, have been employed in such migrant health centres following the necessary adaptation trainings. Except from migrant health centres, in case of requesting secondary or tertiary care, direct provision of healthcare service is conducted. Within this framework, while approximately 97 million outpatient services have been provided to the Syrians up-to-date, over 3 million inpatient treatment services have been provided. In addition to inpatient services, 2,6 million operations were administered and 754 thousand Syrian babies were born in our health facilities.”

“Joint problems require joint solutions.”

During that time when the distances no longer matter, everyone has the same destiny on this issue, Koca stated “I mean, this is everyone’s problem. Joint problems require joint solutions. This burden imposed on some countries is actually everyone’s problem, a conscientious burden of all humanity.”

“I have no doubt that we will prepare an action plan with more tangible goals.”      

Attaching importance to designated visions and composed action plans in implementing health policies, Koca said “2016 – 2022 Strategy and Action Plan, which is steering the migrant health in European Region, is a highly crucial guide in that sense. Therefore, I have no doubt that we will prepare an action plan with stronger and more tangible goals for the future, using the outcomes of this meeting.”

A press conference was held within the scope of closing session of the meeting.

Minister Koca explained that they held productive consultations on migration and health for two days with the participation of senior representatives of 55 countries and 10 international organizations at the level of the EU’s vice chairman of the commission.

Pointing out that the migration and its effects on people is as ancient as the history of humanity, Koca highlighted that migration problem cannot pertain to just one country or a region and added:

“Just as this is a joint problem, the solution ends up with common sense and sharing the burden equally. Therefore, we attach more importance to the cooperation activities in the field of health. As you know, Türkiye has been exposed to flow of migration for ages because of its geographical position as well as the welcoming attitude towards strangers to make them feel home.

Minister Koca also mentioned that Türkiye had followed an ‘open door’ policy towards refugees from Syria since the outbreak of the devastating war in Syria in March 2011, and the Syrians had been given ‘temporary protection’, so they could benefit from such basic services as health and education.

“SIHHAT Project became a dominant project in the field of migration health.”

Underlining the importance of SIHHAT Project conducted with the funds of European Union and the projects conducted with the technical support of WHO, Koca noted “healthcare services have been provided to temporary protection status holders in Türkiye through financial supports since 2016, and it has been improving and strengthening day by day. SIHHAT Project, the second phase of which we are currently carrying out successfully, has become a dominant project in the field of migration health and has many achievements.”

Updated: 22/03/2022