Colliding Crises? Global health between war, security and human rights

16th-23rd September 2023

The summer school of 2023 explored how health, as a field of practice, of policy but most importantly as a human right is connected to violence, war and different security approaches. We focused on ways in which both direct and structural violence affect our work as health professionals and political activists dedicated to Health For All. We were seeking to understand how an intersectional perspective* on health and security may help us to deconstruct assumptions about “threats” and “risks” and find alternative solutions.

War and violent conflict cause injuries, traumatisation and death of thousands. During 2022, the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine has made this strikingly visible, with attacks on hospitals and maternity wards causing international outcries. Far away from the attention of Western politicians and media, the civil war in Ethiopia is claimed to be the most violent in the 21st century - 100.000 are reported to have died due to lack of medical attention. What are the effects of violent conflicts on the health of individuals and health systems? What are the gendered dimensions? Can the health sector build bridges to peace and dialogue amidst polarization and hatred?

Peace and well-being are conditions for health and vice-versa. Health can play an important role in achieving and sustaining peace. The question of prevention, mitigation and transformation of violent conflict is crucial to practitioners, academics and activists of global and public health, medicine and psychology. Through their analytical training, ethical standards of Do-no-harm and social recognition they can become peace-makers. However, they also stand in danger of becoming targets or even perpetrators of violence and repression.

During the summer school we looked at the effects of direct violence on health. We also explored social determinants of health with a particular focus on gender discrimination and its intersections with other systems of oppression, such as racism. As a result of the subtler and often insidious effects of structural violence - i.e. Black people have died at 1.4 times the rate than white people during the Coronavirus pandemic in the US. The Russian war against Ukraine exacerbates one of the most severe global food crises in decades contributing to widespread starvation, premature deaths and poverty. This disproportionately affects women and girls, in war-torn countries such as Yemen and Afghanistan, but also migrants or female-headed households in Europe.


Participants´ Voices 2024

As a team we had the opportunity to agree and disagree , reshape and give new meaning and definitions towards, global health , violence and health as well as peace and health which were more elaborated by the speakers we had throughout the week. The summer school was a great experience.
Nancy - medical student at the University of Lusaka, Zambia

I especially sense a lot of tension on this thin line between the desire to change, help and to build peace whilst trying not to inflict any more harm than our western lifestyle already afflicts on our friends in the global south. These tensions are sometimes hardly bearable. And yet, I see hope for change in the tones in between, because this is where the potential lies to build new relationships that can bring change. The summer school serves as a good example, because we got to know each and learned from each other.
Jonathan - medical student at the University of Halle (Saalae), Germany

The Global Health Summer School was an amazing opportunity to connect with other young people and activists interested in the field of global health, to learn more about decoloniality, global health and how it differs from international health, and discuss current policies. I had a lot of fun and got inspired how to become more active in this field in the future.
Kristin - student of peace and conflict studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

I had the privilege of being a part of the Global Health Summer School 2023 in Germany, and I must say it was an absolutely incredible experience. The opportunity to immerse myself in a deep dive into global health, intersectionality, and the devastating effects of violent conflicts on the health of ordinary people was eye-opening. One of the highlights for me was witnessing the dedication and hard work that some of my fellow participants had poured into creating and delivering workshops. It was truly inspiring to see such passionate individuals coming together to share their knowledge and insights. Ashim - medical doctor at Kathmandu Hospital, Nepal

Supported by

Engagement Global mit Mitteln des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung

and Medical Peace Work

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