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Winter 2019 Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian action is intended to “save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during and after man-made crises and disasters caused by natural hazards, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for when such situations occur”. Join us for a discussion on the efficacy of current humanitarian efforts, including the recent work of aid organizations and how we can improve upon old mistakes to prepare for future disasters.

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The UC San Diego Global Health ProgramStudents for Global Health, and Global Forum (International House) held yet another successful event in the Quarterly Conversations in Global Health series on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019! This quarter’s panel addressed the many challenges that humanitarian aid faces in policy, funding and allocation of sufficient resources.

Thank you to the community tables who participated in the event’s networking session: Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC)San Diego Youth ServicesFeeding San DiegoPERIOD. At UCSDI-House, and the  American Mock World Health Organization (AMWHO).

Winter Quarterly Conversations in Global Health 2019 featured three panelists who presented their insights and experiences as they relate to the topic of humanitarian aid.

We were delighted to have Dr. Tom Csordas, Director of the UC San Diego Global Health Program, moderate the event once again as our Master of Ceremonies.

Panel Recap

Dr. Varma first held the floor as the panel portion began. She is a medical and cultural anthropologist working on questions of violence, medicine, psychiatry, and politics as they pertain to Indian-controlled Kashmir and South Asia more generally. Dr. Varma spent 20 months doing ethnographic research in Kashmir, the site of a chronic, unresolved conflict, and one of the most militarized places on earth. In her research, she explores how spaces of psychiatric and humanitarian care confront, but also become microcosms of, the broader politics of violence and occupation that characterize life in Kashmir. Dr. Varma’s presentation began with a discussion of the origins of humanitarianism.

She stressed that humanitarianism stems from a moral, rather than political, imperative and is intended as only a temporary emergency response until long-term structural changes can be established. Dr. Varma cited three broad challenges to effectively delivering humanitarian aid: the disproportionate amount of global spending for the military rather than humanitarian aid itself creates a climate in which humanitarian aid is needed now more than ever; the increased politicization of aid hinders humanitarianism because it reflects broader geopolitical priorities and removes the neutrality and impartiality from this emergency response; and finally the disconnect between donor priorities and the needs and interests of communities highlights the social inequities that we cannot afford to continue ignoring. Dr. Varma concluded her discussion by asking the audience to consider not only the kind of change they want to see, but how humanitarianism can be employed to produce these changes.

Dr. Sanghvi has practiced anesthesiology for almost thirty years, spending a portion of her time being involved in surgical missions for the underserved in various parts of the world.  On her return to academics here at UCSD, she is the head of the Global Health Division of the Department of Anesthesiology. She has begun a fellowship training program for qualified anesthesiologists, and enjoys facilitating learning and service experiences for pre-medical students, medical students and residents. Dr. Sanghvi began by discussing her experiences as an anesthesiologist abroad. She examined the differences between working in the U.S. and other nations, explaining that readily available anesthesiologists is a unique component of the U.S. healthcare system. Dr. Sanghvi’s also related her experiences in the Dominican Republic, during which she discussed the most pressing humanitarian concerns of the country and the modes by which this aid was provided. Dr. Sanghvi’s firsthand accounts of her work in the field provided the audience with a valuable perspective of humanitarian work in the current geopolitical climate.

Lauren Nippoldt is a Ph.D candidate in psychological and medical anthropology. Her research explores the experiences of Sikh individuals who perform voluntary social work in Delhi and Punjab, India. She investigates the motivation behind engaging in this work, experiences of well-being, and the role of religion in shaping their experiences. In her presentation Lauren reflected on the role of Sikh religious tradition in shaping the treatment given by providers in India. As a primary facet of Sikh social ethics, she explained the various modes of social service, otherwise known as seva. The lower-income populations that are served through seva receive services in the form of free food and medical clinics, as well as shelters. Lauren argues that these services are not only valuable because they cultivate feelings of well-being, but also because they are intended to fight social inequality. These social services are also met with various challenges which she broadly organized into four distinct categories: theft, violence, infectious disease, and moral judgment. Ultimately, Lauren believes that religion is a critical component of humanitarianism in that it indubitably shapes our methods of providing aid.

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