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Health in humanitarian crisis

UiS is collaborating with VID Specialized University on a new course to provide students with concepts and perspectives in assessing and analysing health needs in humanitarian crises. The course is offered for the first time in the autumn of 2021.

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Photo: International Committee of the Red Cross

The world faces several humanitarian crises due to global, national, and local disease outbreaks, natural disasters, conflicts, and other social and political instability.

– Humanitarian crises are critical threats to health, both physical, psychological, and social. Both long-term and sudden crises cause vulnerability globally, says Ingrid Tjoflåt.

She is a nursing professor at UiS. Together with Bodil Bø, associate professor at UiS, and Vibeke Glørstad, associate professor at VID, she is responsible for the new course Health in humanitarian crisis, developed in collaboration with VID Specialized University.

A need for professionals with an understanding of the complexity in crises

Humanitarian crises affect all sectors and also the living conditions of all groups in society.

– Social and economic inequalities affect our health. Health and social conditions are also linked. In a crisis, this applies particularly to vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, women and people with disabilities, and the school systems and work opportunities, says Tjoflåt.

According to the UN, 235 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. In 2020, almost 80 million people were fleeing from war and conflict.

– The growing impact of crises on health and public health systems and local communities has generated a need for professionals who can understand and respond adequately to the complexity in these crises, she adds.

Therefore, after completing the course, students will have advanced knowledge in global health as a multidisciplinary and multisectoral field and be able to apply relevant knowledge and skills in analyzing and responding to health needs in a humanitarian crisis in various settings.

Resilience and human rights

The course is based on a comprehensive understanding of health according to WHO definition as «a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.» 

Furthermore, the course is based on a resilience approach, building on the individual, social networks, and local community resources, considered the specific cultural context.  Ethical principles and legal frameworks in crises and the right to fully experience civil, political, and social citizenship rights are also emphasized.

Programme director for the Master in citizenship, Kjersti Helene Haarr, and Acting Vice Dean Gry Mørk at VID Specialized University emphasizes the importance of collaboration courses and expresses a broad interdisciplinary approach to the complex field of humanitarian crises as particularly positive.

–  The course will also equip students to handle slower crises at home, such as poverty challenges, demanding refugee situations, and health challenges related to pandemics, they add.

Opportunity to do fieldwork

The course is divided into two parts, with a theoretical part and a practical part. The theoretical part will be carried out digitally, making it possible for applicants in Norway and internationally to participate.

– In the practical part, students will either perform fieldwork or a literature study. Students can do this in Norway or at a cooperating institution in Madagascar, says Tjoflåt.

The student will have to organize their fieldwork in Norway by themselves, contacting relevant actors. UiS and VID will manage fieldwork in Madagascar.

Open for single course admission

The course is open to Norwegian and international students with a bachelor's degree in health or social sciences. The teaching is in English.

It is possible to apply for admission to single courses via Søknadsweb from approx. June 15, with application deadline August 1. 

The course has 25 study places, and the first-come-first-served principle applies to admission.