Professionalisation of Medical Humanitarian Actors

The humanitarian landscape is changing. The number of actors is increasing along with the willingness to assist and help the ones in need. But do we have the capacity to really help in an efficient way? Are the medical guidelines, the kind of diseases our patients have the same in disaster settings as in the hospital back home?

Today emergency medicine is a specialised medical degree and the world is starting to recognise  the need for special training for humanitarian medical professionals.

The IFMSA have, during the year 2014 – 2015, hosted a series of extracurricular trainings on Disaster Medicine & Emergency Risk Management for our members. Computer-based simulations of medical humanitarian response have been facilitated by CRIMEDIM, a research and training institute in Italy delivering the European Master for Disaster Medicine. Discussions on medical ethical dilemmas have been facilitated by IFMSA members with support from the International Committee of Red Cross and Crescent (ICRC).

European Master for Disaster Medicine

IFMSA is taking part and contributing to the professionalisation of medical humanitarian actors. During May this year we were invited to the European Master in Disaster Medicine to share best practice of engaging students in Disaster Risk Management. The participating doctors from around the world were fascinated and inspired by our actions, they wanted to help us grow and they wanted to mentor our members in disaster medicine.

Photo: Picture taken in the European Master in Disaster Medicine Full-Scale Simulation, hosted by CRIMEDIM together with Italian Army.

During my two days in the European Master in Disaster Medicine, I also attended the Real Size Disaster simulations. The Italian Army had set up a field hospital. A plane crash in a low-resource setting was simulated and medical students from the IFMSA NMO SISM-Italy were playing the role of casualties. The students of the European Master were the response personnel. Witnessing this was an experience beyond my expectations. It was not just not a confirmation of the importance of preparing medical personnel before working in the humanitarian field, but also a source of inspiration and insight in how the medical humanitarian response is coordinated in reality.

Photo: The 1st International Summer Course for Trainers in Disaster Medicine. Apply before July 10th to be able to take in this unique experience.

Training for Medical Students – 1st International Training of Disaster Medicine Trainers

Do you also want to experience this? Do you as an IFMSA member want to enhance your knowledge and skills of Disaster Medicine and Disaster Risk Management? There is currently a call for participants to attend an International Residential Course for the Training of Disaster Medicine Trainers. For more information about this IFMSA Activity, read this brochure. Remember to apply before the 10th of July by filling out this form. selected participants will be informed by the mid of July.

Entry written by IFMSA Liaison Officer for Human Rights, Moa M Herrgård
With support from Training for Disaster Medicine Trainers team;  Patrick Achkar from IFMSA-Québec, Monika Bednarek from IFMSA Poland, Giancarlo Bruno from SISM-Italy, Eleonora Leopardi from SISM-Italy, IFMSA Project Support Director Ljiljana Lukic


For the Ones Seeking Protection

Today, on World Refugee Day, IFMSA wants to raise awareness about the struggles and difficulties that refugees face, acclaim their strength and courage and call for the global community to support the ones in need.

A refugee is, according to the 1951 Refugee Convention,  a person, who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

According to the UNCHR Global Trends on Forced Displacement in 2014, the number of forcibly displaced people has reached an all time high, and is still increasing. There are currently 19.5 million refugees in the world, almost twice as many more are internally displaced, and more than half of them are children. 86% of all displaced people are residing in regions considered as less developed, often in camps lacking sanitation facilities, educational possibilities and basic resources such as access to food and healthcare.

People from countries such as Syria, Burma, Afghanistan, Sudan and many more, undertake dangerous journeys in order to find a new home, safe from violence and persecution. Many cross seas without food or water, only to be stranded in their vessels as they are prevented from entering other countries. Others walk over mountains and deserts, swim across lakes and rivers, hoping somehow to find a safe haven. Thousands of lives have been lost on these dangerous routes, an issue that IFMSA has addressed in a previous statement.

Neither conflict affected areas nor the journey to a safe settlement provide optimal conditions for healthy development. Problems such as overcrowding enhance the risk of diseases, vaccination programs are disrupted, and psychological and physical traumas can sometimes set a permanent mark. Their home country might not be able to meet their needs, while other countries might not be willing to take on the responsibility. The access to health care is often further impaired by amongst others legal, economic, and linguistic barriers,  as well as the prevalence of discrimination and lack of understanding among health care personnel.

As far as history tells, human beings have moved from one country to another in search of a safe place to call home. Having a home is an amazing privilege that we enjoy, and with this privilege, we are called to help others in their plight to find a home. As medical students, we have chosen a profession with the aim of helping people and alleviating suffering. We will meet refugees and displaced people as clinical practitioners no matter where in the world we work, but we don’t have to wait until then to take action.

IFMSA recognizes the challenges and the needs of humanitarian assistance among populations in conflict affected areas, as well as the difficulty to accessing health care even when arriving in a safe country. But we also believe that medical students can play a key role in improving the wellbeing of vulnerable populations already today. Through our program on Dignifying and Non-Discriminatory Health Care, and many different projects, we work to promote understanding, affect decision makers and help the ones in need. Join us in our mission to create a more humane, fair and healthy world!

Entry written by Talitha Thomas (Emirates Medical Students’ Society) and Jessica Zhang, IFMSA Director on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP)

One way to show support: Change your Cover Picture!

European Statement on Migrants’ Health

The following statement on migrants’ health was signed by 20 National Member Organisations of the IFMSA, and was read during the European Regional Meeting 2015, held in Aalborg, Denmark, April 24-28th 2015.

On Sunday the 19th of April 2015 a ship carrying migrants from Libya to Lampedusa capsized, resulting in the loss of over 700 lives. An emergency summit of European Union leaders convened on the 23rd of April in response to this disaster and resulted in commitments to increase funding for search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean and to ‘identify, capture and destroy’ vessels used in human trafficking.

Since the start of 2015, the International Organization of Migration estimates that more than 1700 migrants have perished on the crossing from Africa to Europe. In April 2015, twice as many migrants are estimated to have died attempting this crossing than in the whole of 2013.

Article 14 of the International Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. A person can only claim asylum in some European countries once they have crossed the border, so migrants making the journey from their countries of origin are vulnerable due to their lack of state protection.

The IFMSA has acknowledged governments’ “obligation under international law to protect the human rights of migrants” in the Access to Healthcare for Undocumented Persons policy statement adopted at the August Meeting of 2014.

We, the undersigned National Member Organisations of the European Region of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, condemn:

  1. The response of our governments to the current situation, such as the destruction of vessels, which does not address the root causes of migration and will not prevent migrants fleeing desperate situations.
  2. Our governments’ role in the root causes of migration and the lack of political will to remedy this.

We reaffirm that human life should be equally valued regardless of origin or nationality. As National Member Organisations of IFMSA, we commit to raise this issue in our countries where appropriate and continue to support work within our institution on this issue.

We applaud the European Governments who have pledged to increase funding for search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean as a short term strategy to mitigate the threat to life caused by this crossing. In the longer term, we call for a commitment from European governments to make safer options for migrants to enter Europe to apply for asylum. We call for a commitment from European governments to address their role in root causes of unsafe migration, such as financing of conflicts and discriminatory immigration policies.

We task European leaders with increasing the number of resettlement places available in European countries. Finally, we call for acknowledgement of the responsibility of the European governments to protect the human rights of vulnerable people above immigration policy.

“We can’t deter people fleeing for their lives. They will come. The choice we have is how well we manage their arrival, and how humanely” – António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal.

The following National Member Organizations of the IFMSA signed and supports this statement: Medsin-UK, SISM-Italy, TurkMSIC-Turkey, IFMSA-Spain, MMSA-Malta, HelMSIC-Greece, ANEMF-France, NMSA-Norway, AMSA-Austria, FASMR-Romania, FiMSIC-Finland, IFMSA-Sweden, IMCC-Denmark, AMSB-Bulgaria, AECS-Catalonia, MMSA-Macedonia, CroMSIC-Croatia, SloMSA-Slovakia, IFMSA-Serbia and HumSIRC-Hungary.