The Sendai Journey: Part 1

The recipe of saving life and money
Medical students in policy design and implementation

Disasters have devastating affects on a country’s sustainable development as well as its inhabitants’ individual life. In events of disasters news are overfloaded with information on disrupted social services,  lack of sufficient security measures to ensure a safe community for its inhabitants, environmental degradation and interruption of the sustainable development, all affecting people’s lives. Natural as well as man made hazard influence the health and wellbeing of the people, indirectly and directly, in short and long term, putting innocent people at forefront of disasters. This can be put to an end as we know how to reduce the suffering of the nations and its people. With effective disaster preparedness and prevention billion of dollars and millions of life can be saved ensuring the resilience of communities and building back better.

The Ecuador Delegation donated roses to decorate the negotiation room to ensure a better environment in the night negotiations on the Post-2015 Framework for DRR. 

During March 14th – 18th year 2015, 6,500 people including 2,800 government representatives from 187 governments, met in Sendai Japan. This was an end of two years negotiations and consultations of the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and it is the beginning of an era with enhanced recognition and actions on DRR. After a marathon of negotiations which continued until the late in night, the representatives from the attending 187 UN member states finally adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030. The world now has a framework to guide the DRR investments and actions by agencies, governments, academia, civil society and private sector during the coming 15 years. It is not perfect, it is weak and with insufficient accountability mechanism, but it is better than nothing and it shows large improvements from the previous framework, Hyogo Framework for Actions.

All stakeholders went to Sendai to represent their priorities and we all had our separate agendas, including IFMSA. The major issues of discussion in the end consisted of whether ‘conflict’ should be considered a driver of risk for disasters; the demand of rich countries financially supporting poor countries and regulation of this support; and technology transfer from Global North to Global South. We are left with a framework without recognition of conflict as neither a driver of risks or as a disaster itself, with weak accountability held for governments to ensure stronger national DRR plans, with insufficient recognition of environmental degradation consequences of disasters, and weak coherence with other upcoming Post-2015 frameworks. With WHO leading the technical support given to countries and the UNISDR secretariat, biological disasters are though addressed in the framework.

But one large achievement has been made. There have been an outstanding increase of political attention to the DRR process and WCDRR, compared with the attention given to the previous International Framework for DRR and the process leading up to it. With the political attention the negotiations switched from technical discussions to political key points on finance, accountability, North-South corporations, vulnerable groups, climate change and conflict recognition. There is though positive consequences of the enhanced political attention that can not be ignored. We all know that it is money that will rule the implementation of any framework, and this one is of no difference, and with enhanced political attention increased  allocation of resources are a normal consequence due to recognition of the importance of the topic.


“Engaging youth and children in the disaster risk reduction work is not only a necessary measure; it is an act of prudence providing them with rights and meaningful access to save and shape their future ”- The United Nation Youth Envoy Mr. Ahmed Alhendawi, March 15th 2015, 3rd United Nations World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) Sendai, Japan

A delegation of nine IFMSA members representing four regions attended the 3rd UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR), March 14th – 18th 2015. We were representing the Federation’s position through the official mandated stakeholder, the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY).

chris WCDRR MGCY statement
Christopher Schurman (bvmd Germany) delivering the plenary statement on behalf of UN MGCY. Photo Credits to Kartikeya Bhalla.

The dedication of youth and children was reflected by the attendance of 250 young people attending the WCDRR. They had traveled to Sendai Japan in order to learn about DRR in the WCDRR Children and Youth Forum and to raise their voices in the Multistakeholder Forum.


The Road up to Sendai
The UN MGCY, including IFMSA, have with dedication and patience followed this process during the last years. UNISDR consider us one of the strongest civil society stakeholders during the whole negotiation process. The children-centered organizations (Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision and Plan International) represented under Children in Changing Climate Coalition have been surprised by the enormous mobilisation of children and youth worldwide. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), being the leading impartial policy advisor on the process, have been impressed by the children and youth policy points in the negotiations.

We have been asked to be more cute and less technical in our statements. We have been asked to dance and perform instead of delivering policy. But despite endless nights and being trapped in the conference venue after the last train to the accommodation left, we never gave up. We are important actors in the policy design, implementation, review and monitoring. No matter the absence of recognition, it is our role to present the position we stand for. Through out the past year series of consultations have been held and endless of capacity building opportunities provided. IFMSA have among others hosted consultations as part of the March Meeting 2014 and August Meeting 2014 pre General Assembly training on “Disaster Risk Management & Humanitarian Response”.

Entry written by IFMSA Project Support Director Liljana Lukic, bvmd Germany members Christopher Schürmann and Philipp Münzert, IFMSA Egypt members Majid Shangab and Aia Raafat, IFMSA-China member Wing Sum Li, AMSA USA member Leo Lopez, CIMSA ISMKI member Dhiya Khoirunnisa, AMSA Singapore member Val Tan, IFMSA-Sweden member Anna Theresia Ekman and IFMSA Liaison Officer Moa M Herrgård.

Meet the first IFMSA SCOPH Director!


On March 23rd and 24th, the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) Executive Committee met in the WHO Regional Office in Cairo. During this meeting, IFMSA was present as well as the members of the 6 Regional Associations of the WFME. Mr. Mohi Eldin Magzoub, the former secretary of the Association for Medical Education in the EMR (AMEEMR), was among those present. He is now working as the Regional Advisor for Health Professions Education at the EMRO office, and happens to have been the first ever IFMSA SCOPH Director, for the term 1982-1983.

We asked Mr. Magzoub a number of questions about his journey through IFMSA and the creation of our standing committee on public health (SCOPH).

How did you first get into IFMSA?
I first went to Switzerland to represent the Sudanese medical students association in a conference. At that time, we only had two medical schools and I was the first one from Al Jazirah University which had recently been established. I went into a surgery clerkship with their permission and received funds from the local government to support my travel. The meeting was in a castle in East Switzerland. At that time many things were happening in the world and things were changing. Bruce Waters became our president, as the first person from Zimbabwe. During that time we were having some very long discussions about apartheid in South Africa, which even made SAMSA to discontinue as it was only composed of caucasian students, and it did not seem appropriate.

How was SCOPH formed out of the previous structure?
The discussion was held within the group that was responsible for the Standing Committee on Population Activity. We felt that the term Population Activity was too vague, and the pressure from the UN that had the UNFPA programme stopped, so we decided to change it to Public Health. We felt that SCOPH was more related to medicine and the term was clearer to students. I took the lead on SCOPH and attended the meeting in Vienna. At that time it was all the executive committee meeting. They had a building for IFMSA, that was not part of the university, but had a secretariat with supporting staff.

What was your major motivation to work in SCOPH and IFMSA?
The most attractive activity to join IFMSA for students was the exchange program, which was very active. We received around 60 students annually in Sudan, and 60 students left the country. SCOPH started in the Village concept program: a village in Al-Jazirah, where each student came to do their exchange, work with the villagers staying there and where they helped the people. We had some funds from the government and NGOs, so the program continued for a long time. One of the students actually did their PhD there on circumcision. When the participants from the exchanges became doctors, they came back to practice in that village. I also remember IFMSA was very well received by WHO at that time.The WHO recognized an annual meeting on Medical Education by Gilbert, who later wrote a book on medical education on community based practice.

How did you do the work that you did for SCOPH? Was there anything in place that worked similar to the International Teams or mailinglists that we use today?
At that time there was no work done online, we only communicated with letters as phones were expensive. You would send a message and after two months you would get a response. It was a big challenge to communicate. In Sudan we didn’t have anything online. There were no discussions between the meetings and I did not have assistants, but there was a Standing Committee group, an international committee that met and discussed mainly during the meetings

What were the biggest issues SCOPH was working on at that time?
We were working to move medical education from teaching hospitals to communities, to try to demonstrate to international students how to go outside the hospital and learn about medicine itself. It was not accepted at that time at all to learn in the community, as teaching was seen as something happened entirely in hospitals. The work that we did gave some real successful stories of schools working in the communities, helping them as well as helping medical students. For the first time ever we moved exchanges from the hospital to primary care, something which I only realized myself after I graduated: that exchanges can also be in primary care.

What was your biggest achievement as SCOPH Director?
The establishment of SCOPH itself was my biggest achievement as a director. We worked more towards creating the guidelines and the terms of references and what could be done. Many of the actual activities in public health came maybe after my term. But it was a very good idea to translate SCOPA into SCOPH for sure.

What did IFMSA bring you?
IFMSA gave me the possibility to take my first plane, and my first journey to Europe. I remember spending a night at the airport because I didn’t even have the money to go to a student house, but I still went to the meeting. IFMSA gets you into partnerships and networking. I started networking in WHO because of it. And I started working with students of course, or promoting exchanges for my country, which were all important additions for me. And it got me international exposure what helped me into my job at WHO now.

What would be your final message to the IFMSA members worldwide?
Students still can play a major role in international medical education in IFMSA as well as within their own communities and countries. IFMSA really has a long history of achievements. As you know being a student is not really a profession, but it’s a transient period. Therefore, it’s a challenge to find out how to continue working in leadership. But students can indeed play a major role.

IFMSA would like to thank Mr. Mohi Eldin Magzoub for his time, and for his continuous work to improve medical education.

IFMSA celebrates Stop TB Day 2015

StopTB3Today, March 24th 2015, marks the world’s Stop Tuberculosis (TB) Day.

Every year, we stand trying to ignite change, trying to gather attention and public awareness, trying to stop TB – a deadly disease that remains an epidemic in much of the world and that is tightly linked with social, health and economic inequities. We might not stop TB today, nor in the next few months, but we are confident that if everybody join their forces, implement the adequate policies and offer adapted care, we can have a healthy planet free of TB in the next decades.

In a world where one can travel and migrate easily, where the number of refugees and promiscuity rates are increasing, where living and working conditions rights are violated, risks of TB transmission are at their highest peak. Together we can work to STOP TB.

The biggest challenge currently faced in the fight against Tb is the Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB). This has become a major global public health crisis, as it is threatening the progress made in the global tuberculosis care, control and treatment success. Resistance can occur through improper use of antimicrobials and is often a result of inadequate treatment regimens, as well as a lack of patients’ compliance to finish their antimicrobial course. This is why education is crucial in stopping TB, as it helps patients understand why it is essential that they take the medicines for such a long time and sometimes without an apparent lack of symptoms. Education means talking to your patients about what causes TB, the way the disease is spread, how it is diagnosed, and what it is treated. Various researches have shown that patients who understand these concepts are more likely to adhere to their treatment. Last but not least, another challenge is bovine TB, as it has similar clinical symptoms with Human TB, and can lead to fatal results in terms of treatment and rehabilitatio if not properly diagnosed (more information in the STOP TB Toolkit below).

This is why IFMSA stronly agrees that the fight against TB need to be a collective and global one. Healthcare experts, professionals and individuals in-training from various health and social backgrounds must join forces and act as one.

In IFMSA, we are proud to be celebrating the Stop TB Day 2015. We have been preparing this campaign for the past couple of weeks and have supported our national members in various ways:

  • We have built up a coalition with the IVSA and IPSF to push for collaboration at the local and national level and have suggested short and long-term activities;
  • We got full support from the STOP TB Partnership for the campaign and got published an article on interprofessional collaboration (read the article).
  • We have published an informational toolkit adapted to various sorts of campaigns at the local level (click here);
  • We have created a picbadge (get it here) to be shared by the members on their social media accounts

And you, what will you do for the Stop TB Day 2015? Help us spread the STOP TB Partnership main message:

  1. Reach the estimated 3 million people that are not diagnosed with TB;
  2. Advocate to research for TB tests drugs to eradicate TB;
  3. Join the WHO Post-2015 End TB Strategy and targets (see link).

We warmly invite you to follow us on the SCOPH-IFMSA Facebook Group & to share your activities there! You can also register to our campaign form to let us know what you have been up to and for us to support your efforts!

Join us in our collective journey to STOP TB!

Skander Essafi,
Standing Committee on Public Health Director 2014-15
On behalf of the SCOPH International Team