The Miriam College Department of International Studies (MCIS), in partnership with the Department of Social Work, organized the IS Lecture Series: Humanitarian Response and Operations on November 20, 2021 via Zoom. Students of the Gender, Peace, and the Law class (IPPS 104) spearheaded the said event.
The discussion was led by Ms. Chantal Claravall, an MCIS alumna who currently works as a Technical Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. She started her work in external relations focused on communications, particularly on risk communications with social media. She then became a Technical Officer where she handles the capacity-building of Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs), coordination of emergencies, management of stakeholders and donors, and operations of deployed EMTs.
Dr. Melanie Reyes, Chair of MCIS, opened the event by providing snippets of the state of global disaster risk and humanitarian assistance. She underscored how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the violence and insecurity already experienced by more than a billion people around the globe. In looking at these humanitarian issues, Dr. Reyes emphasized the need to use a gender lens to ensure that structural inequalities are also addressed and more resilient communities are developed.
Ms. Claravall thoroughly discussed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) role in humanitarian diplomacy. In her presentation, she discussed the humanitarian programme cycle, the cluster system for humanitarian response, public health emergencies, and emergency response and recovery. She first provided an overview of the work of WHO, which is a UN specialized agency that works with governments through the ministries of health. She also explained the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC), emphasizing the importance of preparation in each step of the cycle; then she explained the cluster system and international health regulations. She expressed her concern that during the recovery phase after the disaster, only a few people and entities wanted to aid, especially in reconstruction. Her job is to solidify coordination mechanisms for medical support amidst emergencies. She described her team’s operations in the Cox’s Bazar Diphtheria Outbreak, highlighting her experience with diverse people. She worked in the risk communication and case management committees, where she communicated with Imams and raised awareness of the health risks of Rohingya people in the camps.
Carriza Arambulo, a 4th year IS student, was the student discussant for this webinar. She approached the topic using a gender lens. She reiterated the WHO’s main objectives to save lives, preserve health, and alleviate suffering, which are crucial in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Moreover, she emphasized that the gender dimension should not be siloed, but rather integrated into the practice to better assist vulnerable groups amidst armed conflict or emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic increasingly makes this issue relevant since it exacerbates existing gaps that vulnerable communities face. Lastly, the importance of training and mainstreaming gender can make communities active members of society, who can participate, lead, and support recovery and development with men and boys as partners for the same goals.
The open forum was moderated by Kriz Heart Agillon, an IS student, where questions on gender mainstreaming, the prevalence of sexism and racism in the workplace, and the factors to be considered by policymakers were raised. To conclude the event, Ms. Pacita Fortin, Chairperson of the Department of Social Work, delivered the closing remarks. She thanked Ms. Claravall for enlightening the participants of her expertise, duties, and experiences in the WHO. Ms. Fortin was certain that the talk inspired and motivated the students and other guests to work for the United Nations.
If you missed Ms. Claravall’s lecture, you may watch it here:
By: Kriz Heart R. Agillon and Carriza Juliene G. Arambulo