The Transformative Disaster Risk Governance Webinar Series at York University is continuing with a session on Humanitarian ethics: moral purpose and moral hazard. The keynote is Prof. Hugo Slim, followed by a panel discussion with Professors Peter Timmerman and Nergis Canefe from York University, as well as a Q&A session with the audience.
Join the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research and Western University (London, Canada) on Wednesday January 27 @ noon for a webinar on “MSF’s Stories of Change as a health promotion method in humanitarian settings”
Webinar link is (no registration needed or password): https://westernuniversity.zoom.us/j/94114166799
Health-care decisions, such as changing practices to reduce the risk of the transmission of an illness, are not only based on biomedical knowledge but also on local knowledge, perspectives and experiences. Health promotion (HP) strategies should therefore both disseminate biomedical illness information and information that includes local knowledge and experiences. Yet, in practice it remains challenging to move away from the more ‘traditional’ health education approaches to participatory approaches that include local knowledge.
In 2019, MSF provided medical support in Goma responding to a cholera outbreak. A pilot of a participatory storytelling intervention was carried out to support the HP team in their efforts to encourage people to adapt protective hygiene practices. This interactive storytelling method presented an alternative to the traditional HP approach of top-down one-way communication. This webinar brings four individuals with front line experience using MSF’s Story of Change as a simple, sustainable, cost effective method for health promotion.
PhD candidate Ning Wang at the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME), University of Zurich recently published an articles in the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine entitled: “We Live on Hope…”: Ethical Considerations of Humanitarian Use of Drones in Post-Disaster Nepal. This work results from a three-week field study in rural Nepal, where local population’s livelihood was affected by the 2015 earthquake, and where drones were used in assisting disaster relief work. The article focuses on the ethical considerations associated with the use of technology for humanitarian purposes, and raises awareness for the need of critical analysis in the deployment of technology in the aid sector.
The noticeable turn to technology in humanitarian action raises issues related to humanitarianism, sovereignty, as well as equality and access for at-risk populations in disaster zones or remote areas lacking sufficient healthcare services. On a technical level, practical challenges include heightened risks of data safety and security, and the potential malicious use of technology. On a societal level, humanitarian innovation may disrupt relations between different stakeholders, may widen inequality between those with access and those without, and may threaten privacy, disproportionately affecting the vulnerable population. Drawing on the empirical findings of a case study of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, this paper presents an in-depth normative analysis to identify contextualised ethical considerations, and illuminate the wider debate about how technological innovation in the aid sector should be operationalised. In conclusion, on the normative level, a prudent attitude in adopting novel technology in the aid sector is required; while on the operational level, proposals for actionable ethical standards to guide and safeguard sector-wide innovation practices are needed.
Humanitarian technology; community consent; technology assessment; data safety and security; regulation deficit; stakeholder accountability
Read the full paper: https://jhumanitarianaction.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41018-020-00082-4
Abstract excerpt: We identified six recurrent ethical concerns highlighted by interviewees regarding closure of humanitarian projects: respectfully engaging with partners and stakeholders, planning responsively, communicating transparently, demonstrating care for local communities and staff during project closure, anticipating and acting to minimize harms, and attending to sustainability and project legacy. We present these ethical concerns according to the temporal horizon of humanitarian action, that is, arising across five phases of a project’s timeline: design, implementation, deciding whether to close, implementing closure, and post-closure. This exploratory study contributes to discussions concerning the ethics of project closure by illuminating how they are experienced and understood from the perspectives of national and international humanitarian workers. The interview findings contributed to the development of an ethics guidance note that aims to support project closures that minimize harms and uphold values, while being mindful of the limits of ethical ideals in non-ideal circumstances.
Hunt, M., Eckenwiler, L., Hyppolite, SR. et al. Closing well: national and international humanitarian workers’ perspectives on the ethics of closing humanitarian health projects. Int J Humanitarian Action 5, 16 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41018-020-00082-4
Participants discussed various obstacles to the provision of palliative care in humanitarian crises. More prominent obstacles were linked to the life-saving ethos of humanitarian organizations, priority setting of scarce resources, institutional and donor funding, availability of guidance and expertise in palliative care, access to medication, and cultural specificity around death and dying. Less prominent obstacles related to continuity of care after project closure, equity, security concerns, and terminology. Opportunities exist for overcoming the obstacles to providing palliative care in humanitarian crises. Doing so is necessary to ensure that humanitarian healthcare can fulfill its objectives not only of saving lives, but also of alleviating suffering and promoting dignity of individuals who are ill or injured during a humanitarian crises, including persons who are dying or likely to die.
Hunt, M., Nouvet, E., Chénier, A. et al. Addressing obstacles to the inclusion of palliative care in humanitarian health projects: a qualitative study of humanitarian health professionals’ and policy makers’ perceptions. Confl Health 14, 70 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-020-00314-9
13:00-14:00 GMT+1 (London), June 15th, 2020
Register here: Zoom Registration – Beyond “Good Enough”
This seminar, chaired by HHE’s Dr. Lisa Schwartz will explore the response to COVID-19 and the need for rapid research to develop vaccines, treatments and other kinds of urgently needed knowledge. Previous public health emergencies have demonstrated that good community engagement helps move research forward, ensures it is feasible, relevant, and accepted, and that its findings are taken up. But how can it be done quickly, and in the midst of lockdowns? On this webinar we will explore these questions, and hear from the experts how to bring Good Participatory Practices to COVID-19 research.
Abstract Submissions: https://resistingbordersconference.wpcomstaging.com/call-for-abstracts/
Refugees and many migrants suffer from limits on their abilities to move around the world, even in pressing or urgent circumstances. They are often forced to leave their homes for reasons beyond their control, including war and civil unrest, political and religious persecution, economics, or famine and other natural or man-made disasters. Once displaced, whether internally or externally, they face pressing needs for food, water, shelter, and health care. Local governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations often struggle with providing for their needs, particularly in resource-poor regions of the world. Recent socio-political changes in the United States, Western Europe and elsewhere have placed additional restrictions on the rights of migrants and refugees.
To explore these and overlapping issues, in solidarity with these refugees and migrants, on June 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th 2020, 7 am – 9 am Eastern Standard Time, we hosted a no-travel virtual conference to explore the ethical, legal, philosophical, and social issues associated with refugee and migrant health in a world of economic, geopolitical, and psychological borders.
In the coming weeks and months, this website will be updated with more information from the conference. Please note that the submission must be made before May 1st , 2020.
If you have any questions about the conference, want to register and/or participate, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
March 14, 2020
Sekou Kouyaté (MA) and Elysée Nouvet (PhD)
COVID-19 will not spare Africa. Many of the continent’s health systems are severely under-resourced. These are overwhelmed in the face of outbreaks. Political leaders and individuals responsible for the health of Africans have good cause to worry in the face of this new threat. But for the more general population, at least in Guinea, news of COVID-19 is provoking a different sort of reflection as well.
Coverage of today’s global pandemic in this African country is a clear reminder of the 2013-16 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic. On August 14, 2014, the Guinean government declared a state of public health emergency. Socio-economic consequences were immediate and dramatic. These included a reduction of flights coming into the country, the closure of businesses, the departure of European expatriates, and, with the consequent slow-down in economic activities and lay-offs in the mining sector. This was a period of undeniable hardship. Some did not accept this hardship as necessary. Many viewed the WHO guidelines for epidemic control that were implemented here as exaggerated and discriminatory: “It’s because we’re Africans”. Some rejected the measures on the basis of those implementing these at the national and sub-national levels : representatives from the national government, public health authorities, the army responsible, foreign NGOs. In Guinea, as in many countries, trust in national and global authorities is consistently fragile. This is the result of several factors, including long-standing political and social divisions, and histories of colonial and outsider domination and exploitation.
There is reason to be hopeful that trust of national public health infection control strategies will be different with COVID-19. We have noticed in the last weeks that many of our Guinean colleagues and, in the case of the first author, co-citizens, are remarking on the outbreak control measures taken first by China, neighbouring countries of China, and now by an increasing number of countries in the face of the very real COVID-19 pandemic. What is underlined as notable is that these measures replicate those imposed in West Africa during Ebola: quarantine, reduced flights, limits on the movement of individuals out of affected areas, bans on public gatherings above certain numbers, closure of schools, universities, and places of worship. This is being interpreted and held up by many in the country as a powerful truth: such measures were never reserved for Africans. The dramatic response to COVID-19 by countries far from Africa – Italy, Canada, China – may do much more than curb this pandemic. Such measures, witnessed worldwide, may shift in significant and lasting ways narratives of distrust towards epidemic control measures where these exist.
As of March 12th, Guinea has confirmed its first COVID-19 case. Adherence to infection surveillance and control measures will be key to what happens next. Hopefully, these measures will be recognized in Guinea and elsewhere as necessary, rather than unfair or duplicitous. The populations of countries like Guinea know what stands to be lost under such trying times. They are familiar with recommendations to limit the spread of the disease. It is more than a matter of telling the mice, “The cat is on its way, positions everyone!” Trust is key.
Sekou Kouyate is a social anthropologist and project manager with the Humanitarian Health Ethics research group. He holds a Masters in anthropology and a Masters in development. He is based at the Laboratoire Socio-Anthropologique de la Guinée, in Conakry.
Elysée Nouvet is an anthropologist and assistant professor in the School of Health Studies at the University of Western Ontario. She is a member of the Humanitarian Health Ethics Research Group, and an advisor to the World Health Organization Social Sciences Research Working group (good participatory practices) for COVID-19.
- Wilkinson A, Leach M (2014). Briefing: Ebola-myths, realities, and structural violence. African Affairs 114(454): 136-148. https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adu080. Beyond Guinea:
- Blair RA et al. 2017. Public health and public trust: Survey evidence from the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in Liberia. Social Science and Medicine 172: 89-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.11.016.
- Vinck P, et al. 2019. Institutional trust and misinformation in the response to the 2018-19 Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, DR Congo: a population-based survey. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30063-5
The December 2019 edition of Reflections is now available! This edition focuses on Community Engagement in Humanitarian Healthcare, and features commentary from Yusuf Kabba, President of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES). You can find it at the link below- and don’t forget to subscribe for future Reflections!
Link to Reflections December 2019.