"One in eight people on our planet is a refugee or migrant. In fact, I am one myself." These were the words spoken a few days ago by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) at a side event of the United Nations General Assembly.
In his speech, the Ethiopian politician and expert on global health spoke of a painful reality: armed conflicts, the climate crisis, famine, poverty and the sprawl of health crises on an international scale are forcing more and more people to flee their countries in search of a better future—or, in many cases, simply to survive.
According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are currently more than 100 million refugees and displaced persons. The refugee crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine is already the worst on the European continent since the end of World War II. Human beings, while capable of achieving the most innovative technological advances, do not learn from experience, from the lessons of history, or from the mistakes of the past. They continue to cause catastrophes, both against themselves and against the planet.
The IE University Segovia Campus hosted a workshop, organized by IE School of Global and Public Affairs, to introduce first-year Bachelor in International Relations students to the concept of a simulated refugee camp. Students also find out how best to respond to this type of humanitarian crisis and learn about the most recent international cooperation interventions.
The workshop was led by professionals from Cooperativa Humanitaria, a non-profit organization comprised of experts with extensive experience in humanitarian aid—especially in responding to emergency situations suffered by victims of wars and conflicts, natural disasters, epidemics and food crises.
“There have never been so many refugees in the world; our environment is increasingly uncertain,” says Javier Martínez Llorca, former head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in several countries, coordinator of United Nations peace missions and one of the speakers in Segovia. “We live in times of uncertainty and great complexity,” he stresses.
In this workshop, which was divided into a classroom-based theory phase and a practical phase, IE University students were faced with a hypothetical humanitarian crisis and simulated setting up a refugee camp in the sports area of the campus. Each student played the role of a member of a humanitarian NGO team working to meet the needs of the refugee/displaced population. In addition to designing the initial humanitarian response and setting up a base camp, students learned the importance of the different parties involved in a humanitarian crisis and the advantages of proper team management in uncertain contexts.
Borja Santos Porras, associate vice dean of Learning Innovation and director of the Bachelor in International Relations at IE University, emphasizes that “it is important for our students to know how to care for refugees and what kind of resources they need—not only to save their lives but also to safeguard their dignity.”
He adds that “the Bachelor in International Relations is, by percentage, the IE University degree with the greatest diversity of nationalities among its students. The student profile is an individual who likes to travel, speak languages, know how the world works and solve its problems. These students have experienced the most beautiful part of migration, but they also have to encounter another migration that is unfortunately unjust—a migration of people who suffer because of their origins, who flee terrible living conditions and who temporarily end up as refugees.”
Borja Santos Porras also points out that “the university has professors who have personally done work with humanitarian crises and who have helped us to connect with professionals who have more than 20 years of experience working in these settings, such as the members of Cooperativa Humanitaria.”
In the sports area of the Segovia Campus, students and professors recreated a refugee camp, in this case in Africa, complete with a field hospital (for analyzing whether there are diseases or malnutrition among the refugee population), tents for resting, latrines and facilities for purifying or collecting water.
“We teach them what a humanitarian crisis is and how to respond to it in keeping with the universal humanitarian principles. This is a hands-on exercise for university students to learn the needs of a displaced population, establish priorities based on mortality and morbidity indicators, and design an intervention plan,” says Martínez Llorca. “The principles of humanitarian aid pursue three objectives: to reduce mortality, alleviate suffering and restore the dignity of the population.”
Along with Martínez Llorca, the seminar was also led by Núria Salse Ubach, who has more than 15 years of experience in nutrition in developing countries, and Xavier Bartolí Pascual, one of the founding members of Cooperativa Humanitaria, who has an extensive experience in projects and missions in Africa.