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Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
30 July 2009

UNICEF provides a new model of health care for refugees in Syria

HUSSINAYA, Syria, 30 July 2009 – Situated only 14 km from Damascus, the Hussinaya district – home to many Iraqi refugees and other displaced people – feels a long way from the rapid development so visible elsewhere in Syria.

The Hussinaya district health centre was a strong example of such neglect. But in 2007, UNICEF and local non-governmental organizations overhauled the community health centre to address this problem, bringing in specialized staff to address urgent infant and maternal health needs.

Family-friendly atmosphere

When UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visited the district last month, she saw a new model of health care emerging in Hussinaya.

The family-friendly atmosphere, the new electronic queuing systems and the introduction of home visits all partly explain why use of public health care services has increased three-fold since 2007.

But the real force has been the team of female volunteers who have toiled alongside health officials to increase awareness of the services offered.

“To be successful in anything, you should have the connection between the service provider and the community,” explained health worker Ezdihar Orabi. “The volunteer role is making that relationship easier. It’s making everything easier.”

Bold collaboration

During her visit, Veneman thanked the volunteers for their work, noting that they have made a significant contribution to health care development in Syria. She expressed hopes that the Hussinaya model will spread across the country.

In fact, buoyed by bold collaboration between UNICEF and local partners, the centre’s community-oriented approach has been cited as a possible solution for some of Syria’s most serious health care problems.

Whether or not this model is widely replicated, it is clear that a centre originally designed to serve the immediate health needs of Iraqi refugees has expanded impressively. It is now a veritable boon to all of the families in the area – be they Iraqi, Syrian or Palestinian.

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