Every day, refugees who fled war and persecution are waking up and heading into battle against COVID-19. In hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, they are putting their own lives at risk to help the sick and vulnerable. Because when you have gone without care, you make it your mission to heal.

Meet the refugee doctors, nurses and healthcare providers battling the coronavirus.

Dr. Anxhela 

Refugee. NHS Doctor. Essential Worker.

Anxhela in North London hospital
"I want people to know how much refugees contribute towards society," Anxhela Gradeci says.
Photo: Elena Heatherwick/IRC

Anxhela Gradeci is a 25-year-old junior doctor and refugee from Albania working in a North London hospital. She’s currently on a respiratory ward treating patients with coronavirus. She never expected that her first year on the job would be during a global pandemic. 

“My experience of being a refugee impacts how I do my job as an NHS doctor. It helps me to see people beyond their medical conditions and think about their life as a whole. I don’t think I would have as great an appreciation for all of that if it wasn’t for my past. 

“Often, people are surprised when I tell them I’m a refugee. I say it proudly, I want them to question their stereotypes. I want them to know how much refugees contribute towards society.

“At the beginning it was exhausting physically, but also emotionally, because there were lots of people who were very sick and lots of people deteriorating. We wanted to do more for them. We wanted to be able to offer more medicine and other treatment but there was nothing else we could do.

The PPE makes it hard to connect with patients as they can’t see our faces. I bring in a photo of myself so at least they know what I look like underneath it all. Today, I’m working on the respiratory ward, where the majority of my patients are recovering from COVID-19 having come off ventilators in Intensive Care. In a way, I’m lucky now because we often get to see patients go home.”

Dr Edna

Refugee. Doctor. Humanitarian Hero. 

Dr Edna working in Colombia wearing PPE
"Medicine is the best," Dr Edna Patricia Gomez says of her profession. "It’s hopeful. It’s positive. I don’t think there’s anything more perfect than the moment of creation of life, of birth. Of delivering a baby and seeing the look of satisfaction on its mother's face.”
Photo: Schneyder Mendoza/RESCUE

Dr. Edna Patricia Gomez is a gynecologist who works for the International Rescue Committee in Cúcuta, Colombia. She left Venezuela in 2018 with her family as the country spiralled into a profound socioeconomic crisis, and robbers and extortionists targeted her practice. 

Today, Dr. Edna helps other Venezuelans in Colombia with screening and treatment for the coronavirus. She also continues to provide women's health services, including critical prenatal care for expectant mothers. 

"Medicine is the best," she says of her profession. "It’s hopeful. It’s positive. I don’t think there’s anything more perfect than the moment of creation of life, of birth. Of delivering a baby and seeing the look of satisfaction on its mother's face.” 

Dr. Edna stresses that the world must come together if we are to beat the COVID-19 pandemic—and that refugees are a critical part of that response. 

“It’s fundamental to understand that we, as human beings, need to unite and complement each other," she says. "Refugees always have the capacity to contribute more than people admit. 

“I want all the refugees in the world to know that they’re not alone.”


Refugee. Health Volunteer. Humanitarian. 

Doha hilft anderen in Jordanien
„Dass ich den Menschen in dieser schwierigen Zeit zu helfen kann, gibt mir Kraft,” sagt Doha Ibrahim Ammouri.
Photo: Ahmad Al-Jarery/IRC

Twenty-four-year-old Doha Ibrahim Ammouri lives in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan with her husband and children. Originally from Syria, she had been looking forward to continuing her education in philosophy when the war forced her to leave everything behind. 

Today, Doha volunteers as a receptionist in the IRC’s reproductive health clinic in Azraq camp. Despite a national lockdown in Jordan, Doha and her colleagues continue to provide essential medical care—safely. 

“Health care is the most urgent need in Azraq Camp because there is no alternative [to the IRC clinic]” she says. “I’m proud that we continue to provide services to the largest number of beneficiaries possible, despite the coronavirus pandemic or any other circumstances.” 

Although she finds hope in humanitarian service, Doha dreams of a time when refugees can return home to rebuild their countries. “My wish is for the people in the camp to live in a better place and to stay safe,” she says. 

“What gives me strength is being able to provide services to people during this difficult time.”