“All children must be able to grow up healthy and safe”

Salem Zeggay has been a pediatrician at the Youth Health Care Department of GGD Amsterdam for 5 years. She thinks it’s a fine job. For 2 months she has been fully committed to receiving Ukrainian refugees and their children.

About 130 refugees from Ukraine still arrive at Amsterdam Central Station every day. The municipality has set up a Humanitarian Service Point at the Central Station. The Red Cross helps with the first reception.

GGD comes into the picture at the reception points. “We check the hygiene of the premises, we try as much as possible to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and we look at whether there is a need for psychosocial care,” says Salem.

Take care of the children

As GGD, we are also involved in the care of the children. Salem: “The offer is pretty much the same as for children born here. So we follow the child’s development, we offer all vaccinations of the National Vaccination Program and we refer to psychological help if necessary. All children in the Netherlands should be able to grow up healthy and safe, including the newcomers. “

Invitation to consultation

More than 500 children have now been enrolled. The largest part is located at the reception points. A small part is accommodated in host families. “In order to make the best possible use of the care available, we first invite the most vulnerable children: the youngest (0-2 years), the minors who have arrived in the Netherlands without an adult supervisor and the children who need immediate care. do it through the location managers of the reception centers, “says Salem. “Look, there is always a doctor’s post in an asylum seeker center. We can visit people there. But the Ukrainian refugees are not received by the COA at an asylum search center, but by the municipality at hostels, hotels and host families. We can not set up youth health care. to, there are simply not suitable seats for it.

We now give the invitations to the location managers and distribute them to the parents. In the invitation, we ask parents to come to the nearest Parent and Child Center (OKC). Children staying with host families will receive the invitation at the host address. We recently asked parents to fill out a questionnaire in advance. In this way, we try to gain insight into the children’s state of health. During the consultation, we discuss with the parents what is necessary for the child’s well-being and health. ”

Many parents and children listen to the call. “People are very grateful for everything they are offered. Because of the war in Ukraine, they have had to leave their country in a hurry. Here they relax a bit. And because it is about a large group with the same nationality “They also have a lot of support from each other. They are not alone,” says Salem. “Almost everyone wants to go home as soon as possible. But when you watch TV how whole cities have been bombed, I do not expect most of “They will return for the time being. And then it is very important that we continue to monitor the health of the children closely.”


An important point of attention is the vaccination rate. Salem: “The vaccination rate for polio and measles is lower in Ukraine than in the Netherlands. And in Ukraine there is no vaccination against pneumococci, meningococci and HPV. Of course we do not want an outbreak of these diseases, so we make a vaccination plan for each child.

The vaccination rate for corona is also low. That is why we go to the reception points with information and injection teams for the corona vaccinations. ”


GGD also provides information. “We provide newcomers with information about preventive care and how it differs from care in the country of origin. And we give parents advice on how to raise children in a healthy and safe way. But we also advise neighboring teams, GPs, schools and shelters, “says Salem.” This work is obviously not new to us. We do the same for this group of children as we do for Syrian, Afghan or Eritrean children. The only difference is that Ukrainian children are not cared for in an asylum center, but in a hotel or in people’s homes. I personally wish that every refugee was quickly integrated into our society. It is heartwarming how much help has been mobilized for Ukrainian refugees, that is what we want everyone to leave their country because of a war. “

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