Canada has responded to the humanitarian emergency in Syria by committing to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by early 2016. This has been a complex undertaking which required coordination between international organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and federal government departments, including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Within and across Canada, this initiative has also required the collaboration of provincial and municipal governments, non-governmental organizations and volunteers, including private sponsors, to enable planning for the transition of Syrian refugees into a new life in Canada.
In planning for the reception of Syrian refugees, government agencies did not anticipate major infectious disease threats. However, early findings from Europe and the experience of health care providers who serve other refugee populations suggested that this population may have other unmet health needs and untreated conditions, due to their experience of displacement over the past three to four years. With this in mind, a great deal of planning has been undertaken to address potential challenges to public health. Social services providers and medical interpreters have been enlisted to help Syrians access the health care system and explain their needs. Communities of practice within Canada have responded, both in providing care and in developing and updating tools and resources to support a culturally sensitive and evidence-based approach to screening and meeting the health needs of the Syrian refugees. Read Article