Global Health Institute (GHI): supporting refugee health and education

Global Health Institute (GHI): supporting refugee health and education

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funds research in developing countries to break the cycle of poverty, reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities, and help people live healthier and more sustainable lives. 

Contact details

Submitted by

  • Chaitali Sinha, Senior Program Specialist
  • Montasser Kamal, Program Leader

Emails:  [email protected]  /  [email protected] 


Introduction to the project


Middle East and North Africa - and to other parts of the global south experiencing increased forced migration, displacement and fragility caused by conflict, climate change and other drivers.




We support leading thinkers and institutions which advance knowledge and solve practical development problems. The project addresses challenges to health and development in the Middle East and North Africa through applied research programs on topics of particular concern to the region.

Resources used

Financial resources have been invested by IDRC (foundational grant) and other donors. The Global Health Institute has also mobilized additional funds to achieve its mandate.

Technical resources from different experts help shape the Institute’s work and enable it to influence policy changes

Main activities of the Good Practice

Ease Pressure on Host Countries through:

  • Developing refugees’ health-related skills so they can more ably and confidently contribute to improving the health knowledge of their fellow refugees in host countries (GHI Mobile University for Health).
  • Filling existing gaps in access to health services through direct provision of medical consultations and health awareness to refugees (GHI SANADI refugee health support project). To date, more than 500 Syrian refugees across Lebanon benefited from the community-based support provided by GHI.
  • Developing a better understanding of the process of informal health provision of services by Syrian health professionals to their Syrian refugee fellows in Lebanon, and promoting opportunities for temporary formal practice to these professionals in Lebanon, given the role they play in meeting the increasing health demands among refugees.

Enhance Refugee self-reliance through:

  • Providing specialized certificates in global health including women’s health, mental health and psychosocial support and non-communicable diseases (GHI Mobile University for Health). To date, more than 50 Syrian refugee women in Lebanon have received accredited certificates in women’s health.
  • Supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity by empowering female Syrian refugees to assume major roles in rebuilding the health system in their country post-conflict and secure jobs in the health care sector (GHI Mobile University for Health).

Expand access to third-country solutions through:

  • Creating mobile electronic health records for Syrian refugees; a scalable innovative digital solution for refugees in low-resource settings. To date, 8983 Syrian refugees hold their Sijilli mobile electronic health record, making their health information securely accessible to them and their health providers worldwide, regardless of their migration journey and destination. This, in turn, facilitates the access of the refugees to health services in host countries.


  • Open Society Foundation
  • Swisscross Foundation
  • Humanitarian Leadership Academy
  • National Institute for Health Research
  • Queen Margaret University
  • College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences
  • King’s College London
  • Imperial College London
  • Epic Systems Corporation

Challenges and how they were overcome


  • Ethics approval: delays in obtaining ethical approvals as well as limited familiarity among IRBs of supporting research on refugees in refugee contexts
  • Security issues while conducing field-based research 
  • Access to the field and target populations which relies on a network of partnerships and the collaborations that the institute has been actively working on strengthening. 

How they were overcome:

The Institute pursues continuous efforts in strengthening and growing the network of partnerships and collaborations with local, regional, and international participants. They also benefit from a steering committee and advisory committee that provide guidance on strategic opportunities and challenges. 

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Increasing capacities and competencies among refugee and host populations through the employment of innovative approaches (e.g. the GHI Mobile University for Health, offering accredited diplomas to Syrian refugees living in Lebanon).
  • Raising awareness of opportunities, challenges and broader realities around refugee health, conflict medicine and other complex global health issues that require trained staff of implementers, researchers, and decision-makers. 
  • Compensating for lost opportunities of higher education by developing the educational and professional abilities of female Syrian refugees and host communities 
  • Empowering female Syrian refugees and members of host communities by providing them with the skills needed to assume major roles in rebuilding the health system in their country post-conflict and secure needed jobs in the health care sector
  • Facilitating and improving access of Syrian refugees to quality health services through the employment of innovative digital technologies (e.g. Sijilli: The Mobile Electronic Health Records for Syrian Refugees in Low Resource Settings)
  • Enhancing access of refugees to medical consultations and health information through community-based interventions and provision of medical services (e.g. SANADI: The Refugee Health Support Project) 

Next steps

The Global Health Institute continues to build on its multisectoral and interdisciplinary approach in the region and in other parts of the global south.  Next steps include applying lessons learned to the Institute’s activities, and to influence the way in which institutions like this can take more of a leadership role in addressing refugees’ health and related needs.