JEFCAS Seminar (summary)

Responding to Complex Emergencies: Humanitarian Action Case Studies: Rwanda and Zarie (1994-1996)

November’s JEFCAS seminar was delivered by Chris Cushing, the President of CEO-President of International Forum for Democratic Global Governance (FIM Forum).  Chris has worked in conflict areas all over the world through his work for MSF, the Red Cross, CARE and other NGO’s in the field. He has worked in the front lines of 13 wars, 1 natural disaster and in over 24 countries.  Up until November of 2011, Chris was the Principal Research Fellow at the Centre for International Cooperation and Security at Peace Studies, Bradford.  Chris discussed his work for MSF, the Red Cross and CARE during two separate conflicts Rwanda and Zaire from 1994-1996.

The Rwandan Genocide began in 1994, taking place over a 100 day period that saw the mass murder of more than 13% of the Rwanda population.  The conflict created over 2 million refugees, 400, 000 of which were orphaned children.  Chris’s presentation very briefly explained the back ground to genocide in Rwanda before moving the discussion to his experience in Rwanda working for MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders).  In April 1994, MSF sent three exploratory teams in order to monitor and access the situation.  Chris’s team was only one that able to negotiate access to the northern part of Rwanda.  For the duration of the conflict the team spent much of that time on the front line accessing health, water and sanitation facilities, the state of any hospitals, displacement camps etc.  This information assisted MSF to put the most efficient teams together and allowed them to begin work immediate once the conflict ended.  Chris also discussed his work in Zaire, Libera and Sierra Leone with the Red Cross and CARE Canada.  Chris discussed several of the key issues that numerous organisations under taking this work must contend with in responding to complex emergencies.  These issues ranged from dealing with child soldiers, border insecurity, unaccompanied children, sexual violence, and environmental issues to the health risks of disease.  The issue of the media’s portrayal of any conflict situation was also discussed.  Chris closed the seminar by stating how necessary this work is but encouraged people who truly want to make a difference to also focus on the great need within their own communities.

Laura O’Connor

JEFCAS  Seminar Coordinator

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