CCOUC Visiting Professorial Lecture “Humanitarian Futures: Technologies Applications in Disaster Response” by Professor Michael VanRooyen of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 10 december 2013

Professor Michael VanRooyen, Director of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, visited the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC) and Morningside College, CUHK on 10 December 2013. 

Professor VanRooyen has worked extensively in humanitarian assistance in over thirty countries affected by war and disaster, including Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, North Korea, Darfur-Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, both as a physician and a policy advisor with numerous relief organizations, including CARE, Save the Children, Physicians for Human Rights and Samaritans Purse International Relief. He has served as a special advisor for the World Health Organization and as a member of the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee's Health Cluster. Domestically, Professor VanRooyen has provided relief assistance at the site of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th with the American Red Cross and also helped to coordinate the American Red Cross public health response to Hurricane Katrina, sending over twenty physicians from the Harvard system to hurricane-devastated regions.

In the afternoon, Professor VanRooyen first gave a CCOUC Visiting Professorial Lecture entitled “Humanitarian Futures: Technologies Applications in Disaster Response” at the JC School of Public Health and Primary Care (JCSPHPC), which was co-organized by CCOUC, Morningside College and JCSPHPC Student Association. Humanitarian aid in war and disaster is a complex and evolving field, with multiple agencies working to provide assistance to large populations in crisis. The future of the humanitarian aid industry will be impacted by several geo-political issues, including the emergence of new actors in the field, the effects of urbanization and political constraints for access. In his lecture, Professor VanRooyen explored how new technologies will shape the future of the humanitarian field by enabling better co-ordination among various actors in the humanitarian community. These new technologies include the use of software platform Kobo Toolbox on hand-held devices for data collection and management on the ground, crowd-source data aggregation for crisis mapping, geo-analysis and satellite imagery for better real-time understanding of the incidents, and the use of drones and robotics in humanitarian actions. 

Together with another six guests from Harvard, CCOUC and Morningside College, Professor VanRooyen later attended a dinner hosted by Professor Sir James Mirrlees, Master of Morningside, at the Master’s Lodge of the College.

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