A refugee from Syria cries out: “I’m not just a number!”

UNHCR Syrian Refugees

(UNHCR, 2015)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Ana Júlia Araújo de Carvalho, currently a fourth year medical student from Brazil. Ms Araújo de Carvalho is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belongs to the writer and does not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

“I’m not just a number”

This is how Nujeen Mustafa, a refugee from Syria who lives in England, begins her lecture on TEDxExeter. Nowadays, one of the world’s biggest problem is the refugee crises and the truth is: We don’t know how to deal with. People say that refugees go to another country to steal their jobs, use their public system and improve the government spending without paying taxes.

They even say that the refugee wants to immigrate to a country who is better developed, they want to leave their country of origin. But I’m sure that this is not the reality. We must understand that refugees move to another place because their countries are suffering! Suffering with natural disasters, with war or with persecution!

The reality is: They don’t want to leave the place where they were born and where their family live to move to your country who is developed and has a better quality of life. They are forced to do this! Let’s compare something: when we travel to another country, we miss our culture: food, parties, language, dances, we miss our friends and family. Now imagine you didn’t choosing to leave your country, you being forced to leave and have to, suddenly, adapt to a culture totally different and to deal with the prejudice in your new country.

This is the day of a refugee! In 2014, 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. 42.500 is the number of individuals forced to leave their homes per day due to conflict and persecution. And I question myself: Our health system is adequate to this receive this people? The answer, of course, is no. In Brazil, at least, we aren’t prepared to deal with patients who are from different countries and cultures.

In Rio de Janeiro, the refugees are accompanied by a translator during consultations and they have guides translated to their original language, for example, they have pregnancy guides in French destinate to Haitian refugee woman. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality in Brazil and in all over the world. Medical school doesn’t prepare doctors to attend the “different”, because most of our subjects don’t include the study of marginalized populations.

So, the quality of life for refugee people is horrible: they suffer prejudice, don’t have access to health system, most of them become unemployed when they move to another country or they are hired in informal jobs that doesn’t follow the labor laws. Besides, this people don’t have all rights guaranteed and miss their culture.

To change this scenario we need to apply in our life just one thing: EMPATHY. Yes, we need to thing how would be our day if we were a refugee!

About the author

I’m a fourth year medical student from Brazil. Since 2016, I’m the Local Public Health Officer Director, currently, in my committee, we are working with the theme refugee and elderlys. I’m also the director of the Internal Medicine Academic League and a member of the Gastroenterology Academic League. I do research in the areas of medical education and quality of life of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and I did an internship in a research laboratory in Concepcion, Chile, on August 2017 about Gestational Diabetes.

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