New dialogue series focuses on Afghan refugee health, well-being


Faculty of Health Associate Professor Farah Ahmad and her research team are launching a dialogue series on Afghan refugee health and well-being. The series will help researchers understand what supports newly arrived refugees need to feel at home in Canada.

In late August 2021, Afghanistan experienced severe political turmoil after the rapid withdrawal of foreign forces and subsequent takeover by the Taliban. Currently, millions of people in Afghanistan are living in fear, deteriorating living conditions and the increasing risk of famine. Canada has committed to a rescue effort by providing safe passage to 40,000 Afghans.

While arriving in a new country offers safety and opportunity, the trauma associated with being forcibly displaced has lasting consequences. Through a strength-based approach, this new dialogue series focuses on understanding pathways to resilience and building capacity through inclusion, involvement and participation by Afghan community members, scholars and service providers. The speakers in this series will share their perspectives – first-hand, front-line and scholarly – to foster a critical dialogue and enhanced understanding about the kind of supports that new Afghan refugees need to feel at “home.” Speakers participating in the series are experts in global challenges, frontline workers in refugee settlement organizations and scholars with thought-provoking insights on health and well-being.

The first online session is organized on the topic of “Food, Health, and Well-being: Global to Local.” It will take place on Feb. 18 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. The speakers will share insights on the challenges they have encountered in times of conflict and crisis, including food insecurity and health through a global lens. To register, visit this link.

Speakers at the event are:

Kazim Hizbullah Sanikullah is a physician, a global health expert, and a Fulbright Scholar from Afghanistan. Dr. Sanikullah brings extensive experience of public health projects for Afghans living in some of the remote corners of the country and served in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health. Currently, he is based in Ottawa and works for Plan International Canada. In addition to having an in-depth understanding of Afghanistan’s health systems and socio-political context, he is a human rights activist and an active member of the Afghan diaspora in Canada.

Anushka Ataullahjan is a public health researcher who works at the Centre for Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children. She is an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Ataullahjan is a critical qualitative researcher in health decision-making. Her most recent work has explored the health of women, children and adolescents affected by conflict.

Nawal Al-Busaidi is the director of refugee services at COSTI Immigrant Services. Al-Busadi has extensive experience in not-for-profit organizations, leadership, social advocacy and managing multiple social and economic development programs in areas related to social development with a particular emphasis on population health. She has held numerous leadership positions locally and nationally in community health, community revitalization, programs to assist women experiencing violence, and child, youth and family development initiatives.

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Associate Professor Christopher Kyriakides teaches in the Department of Sociology and holds the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship, Social Justice and Ethno-Racialization. He is an executive committee member of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies. Drawing from ethnic, racial and refugee studies to identify racialized refugees as a discrete field of study, Kyriakides’ work has focused on racialized reception contexts in Europe, North America, the Middle East and most recently, Africa and South America.

The session will be moderated by Ahmad along with Wajma Soroor, a graduate student in the School of Nursing at York University.

This dialogue series is sponsored by the School of Health Policy and Management and organized by the Afghan Response Working Group with members and support from York’s Faculty of Health, the Centre for Refugee Studies and the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research.