Live Skype with International Youth Humanitarian Responders at YiHA Conference
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The "Youth in Humanitarian Action Conference" (YiHA) took place from 31.03-02.04. It was about how young people are involved in humanitarian aid. The focus lay on crisis or conflict areas. Helene, Nam and myself, Tim from PlanAction were there as delegates and also side event facilitators.
Thursday began with a panel discussion. The aim was to reflect our own participation and to find possible solutions to improve it. The speakers in the discussion were members of different kinds of NGOs, such as “Medecins sans Frontieres”, “German Federal Foreign Office” or “Save the Children”. It was very impressive how passionate these people were, convinced of the power of humanitarian aid and how positive they spoke about the possibilities raising out of adolescent naivety.
When the official workshop started at 4 pm, we had the chance to introduce PlanAction and Plan International Germany to the other participants and explain our activities. We had the opportunity to arrange Skype calls with the members of other youth advisory panels of Plan International from El Salvador, Norway and Liberia. They told us about their campaigns and efforts to support people in their by crisis dominated countries. Wantoe from Liberia, for example, spoke about spreading information about the dangers of Ebola and how to protect yourself from the virus. He knew what he was talking about, due to the fact, that his school was closed during the Ebola crisis to protect the students from contamination, also he noticed that there was a lack of information about the disease, so he had to act to protect the people, which were surrounding him.
After a BBQ in the evening, we were shown was a movie about „Medecins sans Frontieres”, it was about their work in conflict areas. Doctors were illustrating their work and explaining the problems they are facing every single day. Insufficient medication and equipment supply or gunfires in front of the hospitals are some of the problems they have to deal with, while treating the people in need. After the movie a doctor from “Medecins sans Frontieres”, who was involved in the work shown in the film and seven other similar missions, very honestly answered our questions.
I went to the "Health in Emergencies“ workshop, which was led by Dr. Jan Brommund, who is a Doctor with "Medecins du Monde“. He worked abroad several times. He showed us insights into his work with MdM and told us how you can survive in conflict areas. What I keep in my mind is: focus on your mental health. It is harder to heal your psyche than a wound in your arm. Maybe you will get a bit harsh and cynical, but that’s to keep your head clear of the suffering, which is always surrounding you. It’s just for your own survival in the times of conflict.
The topics of the other three workshops were: Force Multipliers,
Dilemmas of humanitarian Actors in Times of Conflict, WASH (water
and sanitation) in Emergencies and Respond-Analysis: Cash
Transfer or In-Kind Assistance.
Afterwards, there were another workshop which was about how youth can affect and be a part of humanitarian aid, however we were busy preparing for our second PlanAction workshop. We set up a live skype call with Putri, a youth activist in Indonesia who volunteers during flooding to provide food, toilries and child friendly spaces. Unfortunatly we struggled with internet connection. We learnt about some of the challenges faced working as an international organisation with young people in countries where electricty and internet are not so easily accessible. Whilst there was not a huge group of participants, the group who were there were able to get a insight of Putri’s work and the disaster she is facing. She told us, that there aren’t many preventive measures, and climate change is making it worse. It’s more about how they react when the flood comes.
In the afternoon the focus of the conference shifted to the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) which will take place later this month in Istanbul. The five action areas of the WHS are: Dignity, Safety; Resilience, Partnership and Finance. These action areas were the topics of the different workshops, I took part in the workshop on Resilience.
It’s not about disaster risk reduction, but rather how to face a future disaster and what can I do safely whilst a disaster is happening. This is one key point of the humanitarian aid. The target of our workshop was to analyse the WHS preventive documents, finding strengths and weaknesses and a conclusion from our own experiences and expectations.
The „Dignity“-workshop was about the empowerment of people affected by disasters, so that they can be the heart of humanitarian aid and to give vulnerable and marginalized demographic groups a voice, fulfil their needs as well as every other human being. A big target of „Safety“ was to reduce the risk which children were facing everyday in disasters and how the society can do that. „Partnership“ was about, how you can build partnerships on local and national level, to reduce the damage of a desaster. Humans were always better in a team than facing a problem alone. „Finance“ gave people a platform for discussions and to improve the critical apprehension of the ways of funding the humanitarian aid.
The last day started with a session about refugees in Europe. The main idea of the session was that we hear experiences of a refugee from Syria first hand and the obstacles he faces here from day to day. We also gained insights into his work as a paramedic during the civil war and afterwards in the border regions.
The last workshop "Youth in Action“ was aimed at explaining to the youth their important role in humanitarian aid. I would say, join Plan Action and we will change the world for the better, but it is not quite that simple. The most important point here seem to be that, when you want to change something there are many different platforms that you can use. You just have to realize what exactly it is you want to change for even a small stone can cause a landslide once things start rolling.
To find out more about PlanAction and the youth work in germany check out our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/planaction.plandeutschland/?fref=nf
Written by Tim, 21, Plan Action.