Hello, my name is Grace McLain. I’ll be talking to you today on behalf of my colleagues in Syria and standing in for our Deputy Director of Health Programs today who cound’t make it. But even though I haven’t had the privilege of working on this project, I’m really excited to talk about it today and to explore this new avenue of technology and innovation and look at its potential for impacting community health.
Key idea behind this initiative is that …
Constrained environments, including the types of humanitarian contexts where IRC works
Using technology in this way can help to speed up the localization of humanitarian responses, so that there’s really just a need for remote support with the occasional visit for quality control, rather than the traditional model of having expensive expats in-country for years on end
Localization is one of the committements of the Grand Bargain, which, as most you probably know, is the UN’s means of addressing the humanitarian financing gap – improving delivery while increasing efficiency.
According to the Grand Bargain, localization can be accomplished through Increasing and supporting mutli-year investment in the institutional capacities of local and national responders Understanding and working to remove or reduce barriers that prevent organizations and donors from partnering with these local responders in order to lessen their administrative burden. Support and complement national coordination mechanisms where they exist And achieve by 2020 a global, aggregated target of at least 25 per cent of humanitarian funding to local and national responders as directly as possible to improve outcomes for affected people and reduce transactional costs.
Among other initiatives
In Syria, localization is particularly important as access to populations affected by this 8-year conflict have become increasingly difficult as the government has gained more and more control of territory (in red). The southern border with Jordan is completely closed to movement of persons, and even just getting supplies in comes with huge challenges.
In the northwest there is a limited number of staff per NGO who are allowed to cross the border with Turkey.
Who are the key players: Syrian government The main cities under government control are: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Palmyra, Albu Kamal. Free Syrian Army (FSA) The Free Syrian Army is a loose conglomeration of armed brigades formed in 2011 by defectors from the Syrian army and civilians aiming to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Since the battle of Aleppo, the FSA has retained control of limited areas in northwestern Syria. The main area it controls is: Idlib province. Kurdish control The main cities under Kurdish control are: Raqqa, Qamishli, Hasakah. ISIL control After the battle for Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) remains in control of an area near Albu Kamal, surrounded by government forces westward and Kurdish forces in the east. Other groups Other groups fighting in Syria include Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
Here’s a similar map showing essentially the same thing, but with the addition of these icons that represent armed actors from all of these different sides of the conflict. This map comes from the Live Universal Awareness map which basically uses GIS to map current events. This map is from yesterday and represents the real-time locations of armed conflict, demonstrating how dangerous it still can be to move within the country.
During the span of the crisis the IRC has directly supported health facilities as well as supporting Syrian NGOs running health facilities in opposition controlled areas in northern and southern Syria (although the south has been completely government controlled since last summer).
A shortage of skilled healthcare workers is a major challenge as HCWs have been deliberately targeted by attacks, and many have left the area for a variety of reasons. This means people are often expected to perform tasks that they were not trained to do.
A lack of OB/GYNs means that surgeons might be delivering babies, and may be more comfortable doing it by c-section than vaginal birth. Or, Internists might have to perform minor surgeries that they haven’t done since medical school.
In addition, prior to the conflict the Syrian health systems was highly medicalized, with many specialists, and not many primary care provider, and very few mental health specialists. Very few healthcare workers were trained in humanitarian assistance or public health approaches.
Recognizing the need for capacity building, and the limits of being able to provide in person training due to insecurity and closed borders, the IRC developed a multidisciplinary e-learning platform tailored to the needs of its staff and partners funded under Dfid
After logging in, users can access the course catalog which has 74 available courses. The format is video-based training with interactive questions between lessons and pre and post tests for most of the trainings
The content was developed by subject matter experts and technical advisors within IRC, with the target audience of IRC and partner organizations’ teams within Syria
The platform was developed by talentlms in 2016 and IRC has a subscription license. The e-learning team within Syria created and uploaded the training courses, and we have been using the platform since January 2018 As this is Syria, the courses are all offered in Arabic, but I have used the Google Chrome translate tool to take screenshots for the purposes of this presentation…
Basic training started with modules on topics such as protection mainstreaming, and have evolved to include specialized health topics such as….
NCD management, how to take blood pressure and measure blood sugar
Clinical care for survivors of sexual abuse This one is a bit longer, with 5 modules in this course (this is the first)
Psychological first aid
And fundamentals of M&E methodology, such as focus group discussions, ethical standards, ODK application data collection, and data visualization
This e-learning tool is currently being used in Syria To create a new cadre of humanitarian health professionals by adapting our approach to access-constrained environments and promoting localization of the response
We are planning to expand its user base into Yemen in the immediate, but we have a long term vision of using this in other areas where access is difficult and it is challenging to conduct trainings and encourage localization
Presentation_McLain - Artificial Intelligence and eLearning in Humanitarian Health
Health Research & Evaluation Officer
International Rescue Committee
Technology can transform the
traditional classroom model of
learning, allowing access to
Using technology to adapt
▪ Help speed up localization* of responses
▪ Remote support with just visits for
quality control, rather than expats in-
*Localization is one of the commitments of the Grand Bargain
Increasingly difficult to
Increasingly difficult to
5 Live Universal Awareness Map. https://syria.liveuamap.com/?filter_cat=5,25&ll=34.9626,38.0689&zoom=7
IRC-supported clinicians treating IDPs in Northeast Syria