Health

Syrian refugee children tend to be resilient but face unique health issues

​Refugee children and young people from Syria and Iraq could present with a variety of health issues, says a pediatrician who is already treating some of them.

Refugee children may show anxiety, depression, loss of appetite or acting out behaviour on arrival

Refugee children have special health needs

7 years ago
Duration 1:58
Toronto pediatrician Dr. Anna Banerji describes common health-care needs of Syrian and Iraqi refugees

Refugee children and young people from Syria and Iraq could present with a variety of health issues, says a pediatrician who is already treating some of them.

Dr. Anna Banerji is a pediatric infectious disease specialist who works with refugees in Toronto. 

"The big thing I see in probably 50 per cent or more of the kids is they have dental decay. They have rotten teeth," Banerji said.

"I haven't seen a lot of tuberculosis, but I have."

Other issues she commonly sees among refugees from Iraq and Syria include:

  • Intestinal parasites from drinking contaminated water. The parasites cause discomfort and can interfere with growth.
  • An enzyme deficiency called G6PD that if missed can have serious consequences with certain foods and medications.
  • Anemia.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Nearsightedness.
  • Lack of immunizations.

Children tend to be resilient and pick up the language faster than adults, Banerji said.

Dr. Anna Banerji examines Noor-Zehra El-Maliki, who recently arrived from an Iraqi refugee camp in Turkey. (CBC)

"But they still can have anxiety, depression, loss of appetite or acting out behaviour. In the beginning you may not see it but after the honeymoon phase is over, you may see them breaking the rules."

Syrian families often have to adjust to a lower standard of living once they arrive in Canada as well as different foods, she said. They may be expecting paradise without initially realizing they need to learn the language and make new friends. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now