Meet Your IFMSA Delegation to COP20

In only a few days from now, we will be leaving our homes to go to Lima, Peru, to attend the 20th Conference of Parties, also known as COP20.

The COPs, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are the supreme decision-making bodies that regulate the work of the UNFCCC with the overall objective of acting on climate change and regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

COP20 is held in Lima, Peru, and will start on December 1st, only to finish on December 12th. During those two very busy weeks, the IFMSA Delegation will work with its partners, such as the World Health Organization, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, and YOUNGO, to ensure health stays on the climate agenda. But we will get to our strategy later on…

For now, we would firstly like to introduce you the delegation!

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Claudel P-Desrosiers
Claudel currently sits on the board of the IFMSA as the vice-president for external affairs. She is from Montreal, Canada, but currently spends her time in Geneva. She became interested in climate change and health the first month she got into medical school, and her interest has only grown ever since. A few years in, she has given several workshop and trainings sessions, and has represented the IFMSA at the 1st ever World Health Organization Conference on Climate and Health in August 2014. She is very excited to be leading the IFMSA delegation and is looking forward connecting with the youth and other organizations during COP!

Maria Jose (Majo) Cisneros
Majo is a 4th year student from the Universidad Internacional del Ecuador. She works as an Official in IFMSA as the regional coordinator for the Americas. Majo first became interested in global health and climate change when she attended training sessions given by IFMSA “Think Global” Initiative. Since then she has become motivated not only to make climate change a health issue but to help our leaders see the whole picture.

Joel Rodriguez
Joel is a 4th year student from the Universidad Católica De Santa María in Peru, and has recently been elected as national president of APEMH-Peru. Joel has been interested in climate change since he was a small boy, and conducted many science fair projects dedicated to the issue of global warming. Joel is keen to discuss and debate topics with people from around the world to help come up with some solutions.

Mark Hayes
Mark is a 3rd year student from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Mark has been interested in climate change and health since attending conference held by Doctors for the Environment Australia in 2013. Mark hopes to work at galvanizing medical and humanitarian organisations from around the world toward a global response to the health impacts of climate change.

Hangout with us!

Meet IFMSA COP20 Delegation 2Finally but not least, the delegation invites you to a hangout session on Sunday November 23rd at 2pm gmt. If you are interested in hearing more about COP20; the UNFCCC negotiations processes; the strategy and priorities of the Delegation and how to get involved even thought you can’t make it to Lima; or if you are just looking for a general discussion about climate change; this is your chance.

We are looking forward to discuss and exchange ideas with you, your input will be extremely useful! In between, if you have any questions, please email us at vpe@ifmsa.org.

Don’t forget to register here:
https://plus.google.com/app/basic/events/c6c6qh1i11g0spfa7fhnqe4dcic.

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Urgent appeal for assistance for the Philippines

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8th November 2013 the Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Second-deadliest typhoon on record. Killed over 4 000 mothers, fathers, grandparents and kids. In a period of less then 24 hours the life of 15 million people got a turn that no one could predict. (1) The typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippine islands and left behind a country in ruins, and people in need of assistance regarding medical health, food and housing. There is lack of water, power and communications. The damage to infrastructure reach about 240 million USD. Many of the hospitals are damaged and out of function. Security is also a concern (2). Due to this scale of negative effects the disaster in the Philippines is categorized to Grade 3; the highest internal emergency category under the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Response Framework (ERF) (2).

Our national member organisation AMSA-Philippines was overwhelmed, confronted by loss and abject people. A call for help reached our federation. We the IFMSA-Quebec, supported by the IFMSA SWG on Disaster Management, have initiated a collection within IFMSA directed to help the millions of victims of the typhon Haiyan. Now more than ever, medical physicians should be ready to respond and help in disasters, whenever and wherever it happens. The privileges of being a health professional come with responsibilities to society. Every contribution counts.

We ask you as a humanitarian and future doctor to spread this call for humanity, this appeal of helping people suffering.  The donations will unshorten assist AMSA-Philippines work to maintain best possible mental and physical health among the victims of Haiyan. Health is a human right and not just a civil right. As future medical professionals it is our duty to help all people in need of health care.

We invite you to join this urgent appeal of assistance to the Philippines. We invite you to join our campaign.  Let us fulfill our future oath as medical professionals and let us be humanitarian. Together we have joined and improved the world. We would be truly thankful if you could help us by doing following three things:

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The donations will unshorten assist AMSA-Philippines work to maintain best possible mental and physical health among the victims of Haiyan. You can read AMSA-Philippines latest blogpost on Haiyan here. The online donation platform is only a click away

As medical students committed to sharing your knowledge and skills internationally, you are a powerful source of hope for the future. I commend your determination to use your medical training to benefit all members of society. – Kofi Annan as UN Secretary General

In solidarity we stand,

Camille Pelletier Vernooy | Moa Herrgård
Team SCORP-Quebec | Project Leader PSWG Disaster Management IFMSA
norp@ifmsa.qc.ca | drm.ifmsa@gmail.com

Supported by the IFMSA Think Global Initiative

1)  OCHA, Relief web, Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan – Humanitarian snapshot, 2nd December 2013 http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/PHL_Haiyan_131202_HumanitarianSnapshot.pdf

2)  SitRep No. 26 Effects of Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan). National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Republic of the Philippines. 18 November 2013. http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/1125/NDRRMC%20Update%20-%20Sitrep%20No%2026%20re%20Typhoon%20Yolanda.pdf

3)  SitRep No. 2 Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan), Philippines. World Health Organisation Pacific Regional Office and the Philippines Country Office. 17 November 2013. http://www.who.int/hac/crises/phl/sitreps/philippines_sitrep_17november2013.pdf

AMSA-Philippines’ answer to Supertyphoon Haiyan

Supertyphoon Haiyan is the strongest storm in the world, and one of the most devastating to hit the Philippines. As of 18 November, the death toll has reached 3,976, with 18,175 injured and 1,598 still missing. Damage to infrastructure reached about 240 million USD whereas damage to agriculture reached about 210 million USD. An estimated 10 million persons from 44 provinces were affected, with four million displaced from their homes.[1]

With the recent disaster caused by Supertyphoon Haiyan and with the message[2] left by Naderev Saño, Philippine Climate Change Commissioner at #COP19, it has become clear: Climate change is a reality, and more powerful disasters can come into this world if we do not act now. Despite arguments posed by detractor, climate change has been dubbed the biggest global health threat of the 21st century[3]. We in IFMSA reaffirmed this, as stated in the Policy Statement on Climate Change and Health passed in our 62nd General Assembly March Meeting[4].

Climate change can affect many aspects of development. From basic food access, to changing patterns of weather and infectious disease, its impact can reach the many sectors that contribute to health. With this huge threat in global health, what can we mere medical students do?

At this point, we cannot just stop. We need long-term solutions. We need to address other needs of communities aside from alleviating disease.

We can start with awareness. It’s easier to take action when you know a lot of people are supporting your cause simply because they were made aware in the first place. From knowing climate change, we can plan our succeeding actions. Next, we can have training sessions on disaster preparedness and apply them in the future. When disaster strikes, at least we know what we should be doing. Moreover, we can share our knowledge with the public, especially the communities, for they are the ones who really need to be prepared.

ImageFrom these words, it might sound easy to build your defenses against climate change. But what would you do once the disaster strikes? In the case of the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan, believed to be the strongest storm, caused massive damage to communities and cities. Before the it made landfall, the local government units did their part and followed standard operating procedures in anticipation of the storm. Many of the areas affected actually had years of experience with typhoons, but Haiyan proved to be too strong for those communities to handle. With climate change, storms have become more frequent and more severe, devastating the most vulnerable populations.[5]

The World Health Organization defines disaster as “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.[6]”. By themselves, communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan cannot readily go back to its level of functioning. At this time, external help is needed. While donations and relief goods are temporary solutions, they are indispensable in times of need, when people are distraught. Medical assistance and psychological debriefing are also essential to address their health needs. As medical students, we can send donations and volunteer to be part of medical missions or debriefing. At this point, we cannot just stop. We need long-term solutions. We need to address other needs of communities aside from alleviating disease.

Solutions can come from the affected communities themselves. After the recovery of the affected areas, we medical students can immerse in the communities and learn about their experience. We can coordinate with local health workers on what they did in response to disaster, and we can look into how we can improve that response. Emphasis must also be placed on preparedness. When we work with the communities, people’s participation is crucial. Much insight into the problems of the communities can be gained from proactive involvement of the people.

At the policy level, we can lobby for the strengthening of government’s response to disaster and the inclusion of disaster preparedness into medical schools’ curriculum. At the same time, we must not forget to intensify our campaigns on climate change. As the COP 19 is happening now, we must remain vigilant and ensure that public health is protected.

Climate change and disaster risk reduction cannot be separated from one another. Medical students can act on many aspects of these two. Cliche as it sounds, prevention is indeed better than cure. Will we let another Haiyan happen?

The Philippine NMO, AMSA-Philippines, is currently working to help its affected members and countrymen. A call for donations to our disaster relief fund will be sent to IFMSA servers soon. For the sub-acute phase,  we will be sending shoeboxes with hygiene kits and notes of inspiration for Christmas. Aside from these, we are looking into long-term solutions such as training sessions and community immersions. We appreciate your messages of support in these difficult times of our country. Your ideas on this issue are welcome as well! Please do not hesitate to write us at amsa-philippines@ifmsa.org.

Jim Paulo Sarsagat & Greco Mark B. Malijan
AMSA-Philippines | amsa-philippines@ifmsa.org 

Supported by Claudel P-Desrosiers & Anya Gopfert
IFMSA Think Global Initiative | thinkglobal@ifmsa.org

Ps. Interested in Disaster Risk Management? Send an email to IFMSA Permanent Small Working Group on DRM, led by Christopher Schurmann and Moa Herrgard at ifmsa.drm@gmail.com.


1. SitRep No. 26 Effects of Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan). National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Republic of the Philippines. 18 November 2013. http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/1125/NDRRMC%20Update%20-%20Sitrep%20No%2026%20re%20Typhoon%20Yolanda.pdf

2. “It’s time to stop this madness” – Philippines plea at UN climate talks. Responding to Climate Change. 13 November 2013. http://www.rtcc.org/2013/11/11/its-time-to-stop-this-madness-philippines-plea-at-un-climate-talks/

3. Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, Ball S, Bell S, Bellamy R, et al. Managing the health effects of climate change: Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission. Lancet. 2009 May 16;373(9676):1693-733. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60935-1.

4. International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. Policy Statement on Climate Change and Health. 2013 March.

5. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Projected Changes in the Physical Climate System. Fourth Report Assessment: Climate Change 2007.

6. World Health Organization. Definitions: Emergencies. 2013. Humanitarian Health Action.