A new free online course from Harvard University will explore the principles guiding humanitarian response to modern emergencies as well as the challenges faced by responders when providing aid.
Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster—offered through HarvardX, the University’s branch of the online education platform edX—begins Aug. 30, 2016. Already, more than 9,000 students from 175 countries have enrolled.
Through interviews, discussions, and case studies, the course will cover topics such as rapid population displacement, violence against civilians and aid workers, civil-military engagement, and neutrality of humanitarian workers during combat. The course will be co-taught by Jennifer Leaning, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and Michael VanRooyen, chair of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). Other course contributors will include experts from Harvard, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam America and the U.S. Naval War College.
“From the Syrian refugee crisis to the West Africa Ebola outbreak, humanitarian emergencies have reached unprecedented dimensions and proportions,” said VanRooyen. “This course is designed to raise the bar for leaders in the humanitarian field, in policy roles, and in the armed services who will face increasingly difficult challenges while serving vulnerable populations around the globe.”
VanRooyen and his team at Harvard have responded to some of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history—in Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.