In 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 65.3 million people had been displaced due to conflict and persecution. Many of these populations have been displaced for protracted periods, with disruptions in livelihoods and stable living conditions for years and sometimes even decades.
With an ever-increasing number of refugees living outside camps and settlements (in some cases 80%) the challenge of managing refugee health, social and psychological well-being is complex and demands new and innovative approaches that are integrated within the national systems.
Developing new solutions for refugee and humanitarian health challenges requires innovation, partnership, and ability to work across multiple disciplines. In light of this, AUB's Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA), established a structured program that brings together students and experts, from a variety of areas, to understand the context, identify the gaps, co-design with the affected population, interact with researchers- and policy makers, develop a stream of solutions that are viable for implementation, and partner with NGOs and entrepreneurs for long-term development and deployment.
This unique three-week course on humanitarian engineering, with focus on designing solutions for health challenges in crises, is organized by MSFEA and FHS, Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), and the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. The course includes lectures, field visits to refugee camps, an engineering solutions hackathon, and a competition. It builds on the success of the first Summer School on Humanitarian Engineering offered in June 2017 at AUB.
Around 50 students will be joining remotely from Johns Hopkins University through video conferencing and online portals, and few students are coming from Boston University to Beirut to participate. Students at AUB and in the US will be working together in teams throughout the duration of the course on ideation, design and solution prototyping.
Over three weeks, students from different backgrounds and with diverse perspectives will be able to: (i) identify and define public health problems and needs in a specific domain for design purposes; (ii) engage with stakeholders in humanitarian settings to understand needs, constraints, and context, using appropriate research and design tools; (iii) apply formal design processes from different disciplines for the design of solutions and interventions given a set of constraints; (iv) apply relevant and appropriate technologies and tools to prototype their designs; (v) present their problems and designs to a diverse audience effectively; and (vi) articulate a deeper understanding of perspectives and concerns of students in the Middle East and the United States.