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Tracking COVID19 in Syrian Refugees

Shared by aralsurmeli on 2020-08-11 18:37

About the solution

HERA is a digital health platform that was created to help Syrian refugees living in Turkey access critical prenatal care and childhood vaccinations. In March 2020, in response to the changing needs and realities of the global community, we decided to incorporate a COVID19 response into the HERA platform. Our goal in this decision was to reach the current userbase of women and children. Existing educational content was updated to include outreach and general information surrounding protection measures during the COVID19 pandemic. Since the initial incorporation of educational features to HERA App, we have able to access 75% of the user-base for symptomatic assessment.

While many around the world are aware of the precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus—hand hygiene, social distancing, self isolation, and adequate nutrition—these measures are often impossible for the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. HERA represents a low-cost, agile method to facilitate a rapid reduction in refugee communities. We are accomplishing this through increased education and triage support for already overstretched public health services. We contend that digital health platforms are a key emerging innovation for future COVID19 outbreaks or other urgent global community needs in humanitarian crisis settings.

Further information on HERA:

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, nearly 4 million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey. Turkish healthcare services are free for the refugee population through national insurance; however, demand-side barriers prevent many refugees from accessing critical healthcare such as childhood immunizations and prenatal care. A robust literature demonstrates the utility of mobile- phone-based reminder platforms to increase timely, complete access to health services. We have developed HERA, an open-sourced digital health (dhealth) platform to increase uptake of preventative health services for pregnant women and immunizations for children under 2 years of age. It enables users to receive healthcare appointment reminders, receive health information, centralize medical records, contact emergency services, and navigate the Turkish healthcare system in multiple languages.

To learn more about us, watch this explanatory video or visit our website:


This solution shall not include mention to the use of drugs, chemicals or biologicals (including food); invasive devices; offensive, commercial or inherently dangerous content. This solution was not medically validated. Proceed with caution! If you have any doubts, please consult with a health professional.

About the author

Aral Surmeli, M.D. and M.P.H., the founder and CEO of HERA, came up with the health platform during his time at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. While interning at Harvard’s Center for Global Health Delivery in Dubai, he saw first-hand the possibility of smartphone applications in improving public health outcomes. Dr. Surmeli previously founded MEDAK, the Medical Rescue Association of Turkey, an NGO that focuses on improving conditions for Syrian refugees. HERA was the natural combination of his experiences upon his return home to Turkey.

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