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

Salim Zigai is a pediatrician at the Youth Health Care Department at GGD Amsterdam for 5 and a half years. She thinks it’s a great job. She has been fully committed to receiving Ukrainian refugees and their children for two months.

About 130 refugees from Ukraine still arrive at Amsterdam Central Station every day. The municipality has established a humanitarian service point in the central station. The Red Cross helps with the first reception.

GGD is shown in the photo at the receiving sites. “We check hygiene at the sites, try to prevent the spread of infectious diseases as much as possible, and consider whether psychosocial care is needed,” Salem says.

take care of the kids

As a GGD, we are also involved in childcare. Salem: The show is basically the same as the show for children born here. So we follow the development of the child and provide all vaccinations of the National Immunization Program and refer to psychological assistance if necessary. All children in the Netherlands should be able to grow up healthy and safe, including newcomers.”

Invitation to consult

More than 500 children have been registered so far. The largest part is located in the reception areas. A smaller proportion is accommodated in host families. “To make the most of the care available, we first invite the most vulnerable children: the youngest (0-2 years), minors who have arrived in the Netherlands without an adult supervisor and children who need immediate care. Do this through site managers at reception sites,” “Look, there is always a medical center at a center for asylum seekers. We can visit people there. But Ukrainian refugees are not received by the COA at the asylum seeker center but by the municipality in hostels, hotels and host families, we can’t set up youth health care for that,” says Salem. There are simply no suitable places for it.

We now provide invitations to site administrators and distribute them to 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’s address. We recently asked parents to fill out a questionnaire in advance. In this way we try to identify the health status of children. During the consultation, we discuss with the parents what is necessary for the child’s well-being and health.”

Several parents and children responded to the call. “People are very grateful for everything they give them. Because of the war in Ukraine, they had to leave their country in a hurry. Here they relax a little. And because it is about a large group of the same nationality, they also have great support from each other. Says Salem.” Almost everyone goes home as soon as possible. But when you see on TV how entire cities have been bombed, I don’t expect most of them to be back anytime soon. Hence it is very important that we continue to closely monitor the health of children.”


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

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


GGD also provides information. “We provide newcomers with information about preventive care and how it differs from care in the country of origin. We advise parents on how to raise children in a healthy and safe way. But we also advise neighborhood teams, GPs, schools and shelters,” Salem says. “Of course, this work is not new to us. We do the same with this group of children as we do with Syrian, Afghan or Eritrean children. The only difference is that Ukrainian children are not cared for in a center for asylum seekers, but in a hotel or in people’s homes. I would Personally, that every refugee is quickly integrated into our society. It is heartening how much aid has been mobilized for Ukrainian refugees, and this is what she wishes for every person who has to leave their country because of the war.”

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