Global Health, Refugees and Humanitarian Diplomacy

We are reaching the end of our two week adventure in Geneva, and I find myself reflecting on the multitude of events and agencies visited. Attending the World Health Assembly was truly an incredible experience.To have the opportunity to see global diplomacy in action was humbling and I was honored to to be there.

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This week’s agenda included visits to various global agencies throughout Geneva. We met with representatives at the World Health Organization, Word Economic Forum, GAVI and UNAIDS, to name a few. Today’s visit to the International Committee of the Red Cross gave us the added benefit of learning about International Humanitarian Law. I found today’s visit quite interesting, because I believe an understanding of the law is beneficial when providing medical assistance in times of crisis.

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Our second visit today was to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). I was impressed with the work of the UNHCR. The agency works primarily on the ground, both building and operating numerous refugee camps across the globe. They are able to mobilize units to areas of crisis within 24-48 hours. The challenges faced by the UNHCR center around funding, sustainability, and providing health care/insurance to refugees within various types of national health care systems. I was intrigued by the UNHCR, because of the “hands on” work being done and the recent influx of refugees.

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We have accomplished so much during our time in Geneva, I imagine it will take a while to properly process everything. This is a bitter sweet moment for me as I am ready to relax, but yet sad this experience is nearing its end. I will never forget this opportunity.


Dawn Chisholm is a Master of Public Health student at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The USC Institute for Global Health organizes an annual trip to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the course “Global Health Governance & Diplomacy in Practice in Geneva at the World Health Assembly.”  This year, a group of 12 students are  embedded as delegates to NCD Alliance members at the 69th World Health Assembly May 23-28. 

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