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

The Sendai Journey: Part 2

The road forward

” Enhance the resilience of national health systems, including by integrating disaster risk management into primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, especially at the local level; developing the capacity of health workers in understanding disaster risk and applying and implementing disaster risk reduction approaches in health work; and promoting and enhancing the training capacities in the field of disaster medicine; and supporting and training community health groups in disaster risk reduction approaches in health programmes, in collaboration with other sectors, as well as in the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) of the World Health Organization ” – Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

IFMSA Delegation in the Sendai Framework for DRR Negotiations within the 2nd Arab Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction
Post-2015 negotiations in United Nations Headquarter. It is crucial that the outcome of the Post-2015 Agenda recognise disaster risk reduction.

The 3rd UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was not the end but the beginning, the beginning of enhanced actions on DRR. IFMSA already took the lead and expressed our Voluntary Commitments as an officially recognised outcome of the WCDRR. The Federation is now ready to take the next step from the hard work of policy design and focus on implementation. Hopefully the rest of the society will join us and take their responsibilities.

A handful of the stakeholders in the WCDRR have recognised the benefits of building the capacity of the future generation and have thereby included youth as a section in their voluntary commitments. This will result in enhanced investments in enhancing the capacity of the coming generation to take action on DRR.

The outcome of the negotiations consist of the so called Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction, which is based upon multi stakeholders negotiations and consultations the last year. IFMSA have been part of this process and contributed to create this international document that will guide investment and actions on DRR for the coming 15 years. The next step, facilitated by the UNISDR (United Nations Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction) is to create a Means of Implementation (MoI) to guide the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Action, as well as indicators to assist in the monitoring. So far IFMSA and the Major Group for Children and Youth have not been welcomed to be part of this process. The UNISDR and the co-chair for WCDRR did not provide a transparent and inclusive process of its creation, but kept it looked to handpicked stakeholders. We hope that they will listen to us and let us back into the room. The indicators and the MoI is amongst all what will be used in the everyday life cross sectionally throughout the world.

Important to remembers is thought that the Sendai Framework for DRR is the first milestone in the Post2015 Agenda. We have three larger process in front of us still to be finalised and adopt a new international framework – the Finance for Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the new Climate Change Framework. In order to reach the sustainable world we aim for, it is crucial to recognize DRR in these frameworks as well. IFMSA will continue to act through the UN MGCY in order to ensure that our policies are heard and implemented in the outcome documents of these processes. You are welcome to join our collaborative efforts!

The entry was 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 for Human Rights & Peace Moa M Herrgård.


IFMSA Voluntary Commitments
for the Sendai Framework for DRR

  1. Increase knowledge and build capacity among future medical professionals on how to manage risk and challenges for public health in disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery, including medical, public health and humanitarian dimension of disasters and complex-security environments. ‘
  2. INcrease knowledge and build capacity among future medical professionals about medical ethics in complex–security environments, International Humanitarian Law, the Declaration of Human Rights including the Right to Health and the medical professional behavior important for ensuring healthy equality, access to services and people-centered care before, during and after disasters.
  3. Equip medical students with skills and knowledge in order to communicate their priorities in development of international and national policy, and to advocate for inclusion and strengthening of Disaster Risk Reduction in the medical curriculum.
  4. Take common actions and strengthen collaboration with governments and other stakeholders and actors on interdisciplinary platforms and events to improve disaster risk reduction and reduce risks to people’s health.

The full text of the IFMSA Voluntary Commitment to Sendai Framework for DRR can be found here:

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.