Former French foreign minister and health minister Bernard Kouchner was the star turn at the opening of a three-day International Forum on “Rebuilding Health Post-Conflict: A Dialogue for the Future” at AUB, organized by the Office of Strategic Health Initiatives (SHI).
The first of its type in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the forum focuses on the impact of conflict on health from its different social, economic, and medical aspects, and critically discusses the rising health needs of people living in conflict zones.
“AUB has been a leader in health since its inception,” said President Fadlo R. Khuri at the forum opening ceremony. “We at AUB believe that all citizens of Lebanon and the refugees from Syria, Palestine, and everywhere, deserve great health care. This has been one of our prime drivers as an institution: the health of future generations, physical and mental health… We are building health in the context of building a society; the two must go hand in hand.”
“To break new ground in health, you have to break new ground in the laws of the land. Many Arab countries in the region that we serve need rebuilding a basic health care system. As we think of ourselves as a driver of rebuilding healthcare regionally, we are also a driver of global solutions,” he added.
“To implement change, we have to build resilient and prepared health systems that provide service delivery in crisis and post-crisis contests,” said Dr. Mohamed H. Sayegh, Executive Vice President for Medicine and Global Strategy and the Raja N. Khuri Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “AUB’s Vision on Health: Health 2025 is but an attestation to our commitment and continuous endeavor in improving healthcare systems in the region and beyond.”
The forum is organized in collaboration with the faculties of Medicine, Health Sciences, and Agricultural and Food Sciences at AUB. It creates a platform for dialogue between key actors in health throughout the course of eight sessions, where renowned national, regional, and international speakers can present their knowledge and expertise to participants from Lebanon and countries of the MENA region, Europe, and the US. Speakers of the first-day sessions emphasized the need to coordinate efforts in reconstructing health in the transition to a post-conflict era, a step that also falls within AUB’s vision for health, “Health 2025”.
The Office of Strategic Health Initiatives is in the initiation phase of Health 2025 and serves to foster collaboration and provide an institutional platform for developing and supporting interdisciplinary health initiatives.
“We, in health and beyond, have a moral obligation first and a professional obligation as well to think, plan, convene, and potentially execute in a way that would allow these individuals to get the care that they need,” said Associate Vice President for Health Affairs, Dr. Shadi Saleh, who leads the initiative.
"The EU is committed to continue its support to the Lebanese health sector to improve access to high quality, equitable, and affordable health services for both the vulnerable Lebanese in need and Syrian refugees,” said Head of Delegation of the European Union in Lebanon, Ms. Christina Lassen. “Earlier this week, the EU approved a new support package to the Lebanese health sector worth €62 million, thereby once again proving the EU's engagement in this sector. Health is one of the key areas for us supporting Lebanon to address the impact of the Syrian crisis."
Keynote speaker Dr. Kouchner, the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs, three-time Health Minister and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Médecins du Monde (MdM), delivered his speech on “The Social and Political Transition to Post-Conflict”.
He spoke about his experience as a top-level official in government and relief work, and efforts to establish emergency medicine, extend international health support, and impact global health. Having witnessed the circumstances Lebanon underwent since his first encounter with the country in 1975, he stressed the importance of the people’s access to a health insurance system that serves all people.
“Rebuilding health in post-conflict means that the conflict is over—and the conflict here is not over,” he said. “Is it possible to set up a project in a time where you are still receiving so many refugees?
“In our particular projects on medicine, we knew that global health was linked to development. Health without development is not possible. Progress in development means education, money, investment—and this world is not receiving enough…Post-conflict health should be a preventive medicine and educating the people to receive their right to health is key.”
The forum includes two poster presentation sessions where scholarly projects are presented on health in conflict with an aim to generate evidence and recommendations for the post-conflict period.
A consultation meeting on “Devising a Donor Framework for Health in the Post-Conflict Era” concludes the forum. Participants from 13 local and international key donor and relief agencies with a track record of impact and work in health in emergencies lay the cornerstone for efficient donor strategies that can respond to the health needs of people post-conflict and succeed in rebuilding the health sector, even before the conflict in the Arab region recedes.
Next for the Office of Strategic Health Initiatives is the preparation of a white paper outlining the outcomes generated from the forum to be disseminated to key health-stakeholders in the region.
For more information:Office of strategic Health Initiatives: http://www.aub.edu.lb/shi/Pages/home.aspx Rebuilding Health Forum: http://www.aub.edu.lb/SHI/Pages/rebuilding.aspx