17 August 2023, New Delhi: Setting the agenda for a paradigm shift in health and humanitarian considerations during emergencies, especially in South and Southeast Asia, over 15 practitioners, thought leaders, artists, and over 300 attendees from the social impact space convened to engage in discussions and display works of art at MSF South Asia’s inaugural Health and Humanity Summit. Humanitarians, who seek to protect, preserve and promote human welfare, shared space at the New Delhi-based event to highlight the needs of distressed populations and inspire intent and action for an inclusive global future.
For the 2023 edition, discussions themed around ‘People Forced from Home’, ‘Equitable Access to Healthcare’, ‘Global Health Security’, and ‘Mis/Disinformation in Emergencies’ explore contemporary challenges and potential solutions at the heart of these critical issues. Speakers include Roshni Shanker (MAP), Dr Parivelan K.M (TISS), Leena Menghaney (MSF), Dr Maria Guevara (MSF), Farhat Mantoo (MSF), Osama Manzar (DEF), Tina Purnat (WHO), Shalini Joshi (Meedan), Rezaul Karim (BRAC), Vidya Krishnan (Journalist), Ambassador Vijay Nambiar (Retd Indian Ambassador) among others.
Dr. Farhat Mantoo, Executive Director, MSF South Asia says, “Transforming humanitarian aid requires embracing dialogue and collaboration. The complexity of today’s global crises demands a comprehensive and inclusive response. We can collectively develop innovative and sustainable ways to address humanitarian challenges. As MSF, we recognize the need to reflect at all the elements that factor into our delivery of aid, to ensure we are meeting the needs of the people we aim to assist. This Summit intends to be a call to others that we share the humanitarian space with, and those on the intersections of it, to coalesce, and be catalysts for change.”
Towards the realization of this vision, marking World Humanitarian Day 2023, MSF South Asia announced the launch of the ‘Humanitarianism in South Asia Initiative’ – a network of universities and research centers with a mission to incubate and co-create an interdisciplinary course on humanitarian studies in the region. One of the first academic partners in this initiative is the Jindal School of Public Health and Human Development, O.P. Jindal Global University.
P. Sainath, Ramon Magsaysay award-winning veteran journalist and founder-editor of People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), delivered the Keynote Address for the inaugural Summit. “As inequality grows, so does the mindset it brings with it. We have, over decades, moved very far from the high ideals of the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 whose very first line was: ‘Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop fully and maintain their physical and mental faculties. Society today already possesses sufficient resources, organizational ability and technology and hence the competence to achieve this objective.’ Society today possesses many times the resources it did in 1978, yet widespread and large-scale hunger persists. We need to understand that we cannot resolve health disasters while ignoring inequality, deprivation and hunger,” he says.
Another highly sought after conversation led by Dr. Maria Guevara, International Medical Secretary, MSF emphasized on ‘Global Health Security’ and encouraged participants to reflect on ‘security threats’ (armed conflicts, criminal activities, access restrictions, violence against aid workers, and epidemics/pandemics) which disrupt healthcare, access, and safety. “The true value of healthcare is not just in science but in ensuring access to health and wellbeing for all. It is the compassion and solidarity with fellow humans and our natural ecosystem that enables securing health for all. Today, however, factors that are borne from human activities and narratives create threats that divide rather than bring us together. To address these threats will require a clear understanding of what health security means and respecting the interconnections between humans, animals and the environment. Saving lives is in healing the planet and we all have a collective role to play,” says Dr. Maria.
Highlight of the event is MSF’s Humanity Heals exhibition, an interactive photography, artwork and installation display featuring the compelling stories of vulnerable populations. Exhibits include: ‘Side by Side’ by photographer Uğur Gallenkuş in collaboration with MSF, which presents stark realities of those on opposite ends of opportunity and circumstance. The collages convey powerful humanitarian messages and encourage viewers to broaden their perspectives beyond familiar environments. ‘The Glass Room’ exhibition by Tactical Tech, hosted by the Internet Freedom Foundation explores how misinformation is normalized, and how the decisions made by the gatekeepers of technologies can influence our behaviors and opinions.
Among the range of exhibits, two ares co-curated by Alliance Francaise New Delhi, including paintings collection by Migration and Asylum Project (MAP) and a photography display by Bangladeshi photographer Abir Abdullah. Abir’s collection explores the impact of climate change in Bangladesh and how environmental challenges force communities to become climate migrants, relocating repeatedly as the waters rise and leading to disputes over dwindling land resources. ‘Memories of My Homeland’ by MAP features artworks by refugee artists Danyal Zaheer and Zohra Rezaie. Through their art, they explore issues of identity, belonging and displacement. They depict resilience amidst adversity and their journey to preserve and promote Afghan heritage
The Summit endeavors to be a space for actors in the social impact space (non-profits, philanthropies, think tanks, academic, and policy influencers) to foster discussions, build networks, and inspire transformational partnerships at the intersections of humanitarian work, technology, innovation, climate issues, and information ecosystems.
With a shared intent and collective vision to create effective solutions, MSF aims to encourage a culture of collaboration in the region to develop better responses to health and humanitarian needs.
About Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) South Asia: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) South Asia is a leading humanitarian medical organization dedicated to providing life-saving healthcare and emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, and exclusion from healthcare. MSF operates in some of the most challenging and remote regions, delivering essential medical services impartially and without discrimination. With a strong commitment to serving vulnerable populations, MSF South Asia strives to address pressing health issues, advocate for access to quality healthcare, and drive positive change in the region. Through innovative programs and collaboration with local communities, MSF South Asia continues to make a significant impact on the lives of millions, offering hope and medical relief when it is needed most.
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