Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Beyond the Doha Youth Declaration on Reshaping the Humanitarian Agenda

Children and youth are considered a vulnerable population in disasters and conflicts. They have specific needs and, in times of crisis, may be subjected to violence and abuse. However, in recent years, young people have emerged as thinkers and active players in humanitarian response.


This trend is best presented in the Doha Youth Declaration on Reshaping the Humanitarian Agenda, a result of the Global Youth Consultation (GYC) and numerous preceding dialogues among young people around the globe. Hosted by Reach Out to Asia and attended by over 300 youth leaders from over 80 countries, the event in Doha succeeded in demonstrating the value of fostering knowledge transfer and experience sharing at local, regional and global levels. The youth priority and recommendations will be submitted to the UN World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) process. The declaration calls for a better understanding of the characteristics and abilities of the new generation. Recognising that children and youth is a heterogenous population, humanitarian aid such as psychosocial support should be age-sensitive and age-specific. With extensive involvement and capability in social network and ICT, as well as being less bound by existing structures and rules, young people can be expected to spark innovative solutions and advocate for positive change.

At the press conference during the GYC in Doha. From left to right : Ashanta Osborne (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Youth Commission), Ahmad al-Hendawi (UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth), Essa al-Mannai (Executive director, Reach Out to Asia), Sam Li Wing Sum (Steering Group of GYC, United Nations Major Group for Children & Youth), Nada Abdel Hayy (Reach Out to Asia advisory board member). Source: Gulf Times
The delegation of IFMSA to GYC in Doha. They took the opportunity to showcase the latest Training disaster medicine Trainers project  (TdmT) as an example of how young people take the initiative to equip themselves with necessary knowledge in humanitarian affairs. Watch their video here and hear why they joined the GYC. (Photo by Arslan Inayat)

The declaration also advocates for a localization of humanitarian response in which young people should be among the first responders. It no longer makes sense, for example, to recruit external volunteers when there are plenty of local young people in refugee camps ready to contribute to the well being of their own community. Provided with adequate education and training, young people can better understand their roles, get prepared, and participate meaningfully in mitigating the negative impacts of disasters and conflicts.


Not only did the future generation re-orientate their role in reshaping aid, they also reaffirmed the importance of partnership across different groups and generations. Reach Out to Asia has set an example by their commitment to provide opportunities for young volunteers and sustain youth engagement.


The Doha Youth Declaration is a remarkable milestone, but we do not stop there.


Voices of children and youth should be brought into the Summit in Istanbul next year and reflected in the transformative agenda by the UN. Beyond the WHS, young people should be included in the implementation of the new humanitarian framework.


During the GYC, IFMSA has pushed forward the health agenda among the participants. In the coming WHS process, different stakeholders must carry on the discussion to put health and wellbeing at the center of humanitarian actions, as emphasised by WHO. Health workforce in the field face increasing challenges and threats. It is now more difficult to meet the health needs of the affected populations especially in places that are difficult to reach. We are also lacking incentives and a system for affordable and accessible innovations such as medicines to face emerging challenges. These issues are complex and require all sectors to work together for solutions.


There is a gap in education and training to prepare health professionals for joining the humanitarian workforce. The recently launched Training disaster medicine Trainers project  (TdmT) is a timely example of capacity building initiative. Brought by IFMSA and Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine and Computer Sciences applied to the medical practise (CRIMEDIM), the course seeks to provide necessary knowledge and skills for health professionals that may be missing from medical schools.


Students can acquire practical experience through responsible volunteering locally and internationally. Universities should take on the leadership to nurture humanitarian workers starting from undergraduate levels. With a perceived need from the students such as that expressed in a youth dialogue held in Hong Kong SAR, medical schools can consider providing opportunities and guidance for those interested in humanitarian actions. Sharing stories in humanitarian work can convince students that health professionals have the ability and an indispensible role.


The WHS process must not be an empty talk. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our aid to the populations in desperate need of assistance. We need commitments from governments and across sectors - commitments to build partnership with young people and to train an effective workforce that can ease people’s suffering during humanitarian crises.