Health Care in Danger

“One of the first victims of war is the health care system itself.” – Marco Baldan, Red Cross Chief War Surgeon.

On December 12-14, the first ever IFMSA Sub Regional Training on Health Care in Danger was held in Stockholm, Sweden. Students from Europe, Egypt and Kenya gathered to discuss threats and violence against health care personnel and facilities. This is a concern in all countries. It is most evident in conflicts, but it is also of importance in countries at peace, as these three examples show.

Mogadishu, Somalia, 2009. The graduation of a class of medical students is subject to a bombing, killing 25 people and injuring over 80. This is the second batch of Somali medical students to successfully complete their medical training in twenty years. Most of the victims are newly graduated doctors, having an extremely severe impact on continued access to healthcare in Somalia for years to come.

Wardak, Afghanistan, 2009. Armed soldiers enter Ghazi Mohammed Khan hospital, searching for an enemy soldier. The hospital staff is ordered to report any enemy soldier arriving to the hospital. When they refuse, citing medical ethics, their lives are threatened at gunpoint. Afterwards, many of the workers are too afraid to continue working at the hospital.

Malmö, Sweden, 2014. A political demonstration takes a violent turn and the police force is accused of excessive violence towards the demonstrant’s. At the local hospital, police men block the entrance to the ER, asking people seeking care for identification.

In armed conflicts, health care personnel are being targeted in attacks, ambulances are being denied access at checkpoints and pharmacies are being raided. Data from recent years suggest that there may be an increase in violence against health care personnel and facilities. These attacks are a threat not only towards health care workers themselves, but towards entire healthcare systems. We need to speak up for access to health care; part of the Human Right to Health.

Starting with the man in the mirror, we wondered what we as medical students could do to address these problems. Given the complex nature of the threats, it is impossible for us to solve the problem ourselves. What we can do, however, is to focus on an issue dear to our hearts; the need of the patient and our professional ethics.

Supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, we have launched the project Health Care in Danger – Ethical Principles of Health Care in Conflicts and Other Emergencies. With this project, we aim to increase the knowledge about International Humanitarian Law, medical ethics and human rights. We need to raise awareness on how these interact in the context of violence and threats of violence facing health care personnel.

We want to build a health care system that can withstand the pressure of armed conflict and other emergencies and are positive that a thorough understanding of medical ethics and their importance plays a key role. We build capacity through symposiums, lectures, trainings and workshops. Anno Giorgadze, IFMSA member from Georgia took part in the Sub Regional Training in Sweden:

 “I always knew that doctors were under pressure. But before the training “Health care in danger” I could never imagine the problem to be this big, global and serious. On the training, participants clearly saw the videos with facts of violence against health care workers. Sadly, population doesn’t understand that with this kind of behavior they will suffer themselves. As a new generation of health care professionals I want to raise awareness of health care in danger on national and international level and I’m sure all the medical students will join me. So! In the end I want to tell: Save your doctors, save your future health!!!”

Our participants have left Stockholm with increased knowledge on Health Care in Danger, a better understanding of the importance of medical ethics and dilemmas that may arise in armed conflict and other emergencies. They have also started to draft plans on how to develop their own Health Care in Danger project and on how to advocate for the inclusion of this topic in their medical curriculums.

Next up, we’re hosting another workshop on this topic during pre-EMR in Cairo, Egypt and during pre-GA in Istanbul, Turkey. We look forward to spreading knowledge and hope to give medical students the tools to take a stand for access to healthcare, in every situation.

See more pictures of the successful event on our Facebook page here!

Entry written by
Alice Claeson, Head of Logistics, Sub Regional Training Health Care in Danger
Hana Awil, President IFMSA-Sweden
Anna-Theresia Ekman, Health Care in Danger Focal Point IFMSA-Sweden

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Peer Education Training in Butare, Rwanda!

Thanks to invitation from MEDSAR Rwanda, two members of IFMSA Team of Officials-SCORA Director – Michalina Drejza and Liaison Officer to Sexual and Reproductive Health including AIDS – Kelly Thompson have facilitated first ever Peer Education Training in Butare, Rwanda.

During three days we have discussed the most important sexual and reproductive health issues for Rwanda including family planning, access to safe and legal abortion, ending AIDS and STIs. We also analyzed the needs of SCORA Rwanda and created the proposals of new projects that are going to be soon introduced in MEDSAR Rwanda actions. Identifying family planning in general as the most important issue for Rwandan SCORAngels we focused the planned projects on targeting unintended pregnancies, unmet needs of contraception and Sexually Transmitted Infections’ prophylaxis. The participants were supposed to plan the projects from the very beginning with analysis, setting the aims, target group, writing and planning the budget and assesing impact on society. Then we did a simulation of project presentation in front of founders and decided which project will get funding.

26 Rwandan medical students from Huye Campus of University of Rwanda in Butare have learnt about peer education method and are trained in advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights being ready and motivated to work in the field.

We are looking forward to hear about new amazing projects and campaigns from Rwanda!

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Hugs,
Michalina Drejza
Director on Sexual and Reproductive Health including HIV/AIDS

IFMSA at UNESCO International Conference of NGOs

Today, we as an IFMSA delegation are joining the UNESCO International Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations. The delegation is composed of Diogo Martins (IFMSA LO UNESCO & Head of Delegation), Lucas Scherdel (Medsin-UK), Luiza Bastos (IFMSA SCORE Director), Mouna Hentati (Associamed-Tunisia), Murat Aksoy (TurkMSIC-Turkey), and Nitchakorn Tangsathapornpanich (IFMSA-Thailand).

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It is a key forum in which UNESCO’s official NGO partners to meet and hold discussions, with its primary purpose being to “review the state of cooperation with UNESCO […] and facilitate cooperation between organisations having common interests”. The 2014 Conference will focus on the theme “Re-enchanting the World with the Post-2015 Development Agenda” and will be organised around the following four sub-themes:

  • “The involvement of NGOs for the promotion of Quality Education in the Post-2015 Agenda”
  • “Water and Sustainable Development: From Awareness-Raising to Decision-Making”
  • “Enhancing Cultural Heritage and Fostering the Diversity of Cultural Expression”
  • “Climate Change: Acting Now”

Our Work
First day of the conference, Mr. Eric Falt (Unesco Assistant-Director for External Relations and Public Information) and Mr. Patrick Gallaud (Chairperson of the International Conference) made an official opening speech which implicated the importance of collaboration within UNESCO. As an introductory lecture, Mr. Gilles Van der Pooten (Director of Reporters of Hope) stressed the importance of media as a tool for UNESCO’s partner campaigns. Then, the agenda of the conference was adopted and the liaison committee presented their 2012-2014 financial and activity reports.

As a delegation, we listened to the presentations of the candidatures, taking careful note of the representation of the priorities of IFMSA. After all candidatures were given, we joined the social event of the conference organised by UNESCO and met with some fellow inspiring NGOs.

As the conference moves on, IFMSA will work to raise the profile of youth in this important inter-cultural process. Diogo Martins, delegation leader, gave an intervention about the use of social media in inclusion of youth and there is a general buzz amongst NGOs about a move towards a greater and more representative voice of youth.

Tomorrow, we hope to liaise with other youth actors within the UNESCO system to present a joint statement on the role and value of youth in the UNESCO process. For now, we anticipate a positive and involved response!