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Whittington Hospital doctor celebrated for World Refugee Day 2020

PUBLISHED: 12:59 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:20 22 June 2020

Anxhela Gradeci, who works on the Covid ward at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: IRC / Elena Heatherwick

Anxhela Gradeci, who works on the Covid ward at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: IRC / Elena Heatherwick

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A junior doctor at the Whittington Hospital became the face of a campaign for this year’s World Refugee Day.

In the late 1990s, four-year-old Anxhela Gradeci fled conflict in Albania as a refugee and came to the UK.

She now works as a junior doctor on the respiratory ward at the Whittington Hospital and has been on the frontline treating coronavirus patients during the pandemic.

A video detailing Anxhela’s story was shared by the International Rescue Committee for World Refugee Day 2020 on June 20 and Refugee Week from June 15 to 21.

READ MORE: NHS workers brighten up Whittington Hospital halls with rainbow murals

It was shared by hundreds of people, including London mayor Sadiq Khan and Islington Council leader Richard Watts.

Anxhela Gradeci, who works on the Covid ward at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: IRC / Elena HeatherwickAnxhela Gradeci, who works on the Covid ward at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: IRC / Elena Heatherwick

Anxhela said: “After six years of medical school learning about countless diseases, a new one came along and changed everything: Covid-19.

“I’m not an anomaly. Refugees are on the front line of the NHS in the fight against Covid. When the government put a call out asking for volunteers to become medical support workers, hundreds of foreign-born doctors, including refugees, responded.”

She said being a refugee helps her to see people beyond their medical conditions: “When I tell people I’m a refugee, they’re usually surprised. I know that the label stirs up connotations. Often, it’s sympathy. Sometimes, it’s anger.

“I want people to understand that refugees are not one homogenous group. They’re individuals with a lot to offer society.”

Anxhela is proud to be a refugee because they are “shaping our world for the better”.

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Laura Kyrke-Smith, UK executive director of the International Rescue Committee, said: “As communities face enormous challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve seen heroic stories of essential workers on the front line.

“Among them are refugees. Whether volunteers, food distributors, mask makers or doctors and nurses, refugees are fighting to keep communities safe, make our society stronger and rebuild our world after the virus - and beyond.

“That’s why this World Refugee Day the International Rescue Committee is calling for the public and policy makers to recognise refugees as the essential workers they are in tackling the coronavirus crisis and rebuilding for the future.”


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