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By Dr. Hellen Barsosio, IPPNW

Planting a Seed: Introducing Medical Peace Work to Medical Students in Africa

Peace & Health Blog

By Dr. Hellen Barsosio, Executive Director IPPNW-Kenya, and Mary Iwaret, medical student, Kenya, Medical Peace Work Africa Coordinator

As doctors in society, we are called to be more than just hospital workers and engage with the politics and social aspects of our society ‘if we are to live up to the highest ideals of the profession’ (Eisenberg, L. (1986) Rudolf Virchow: The Physician as Politician. Medicine and War, 2, 243-250). This was beautifully described by Rudolf Virchow in his famous statement that ‘medicine is a social science and politics is nothing but medicine on a larger scale.’

Medical students growing up in most African countries are confronted and sometimes overwhelmed by the varied needs in their societies including war, disease, poverty, violence, inequality and political instability. With this ‘confrontation’ comes the need to ‘fix’ whatever is wrong. In the past few years, we have noted that African medical students and young doctors are awakening to their responsibility to being more than just hospital workers. One of these areas of awakening is peace work.


As this momentum picks up, there is a need to equip these young minds with the right knowledge and skills to effectively lead change in peace work in Africa. It starts with a seed planted in an online classroom and discussion forum – Medical Peace Work (MPW) online curriculum - that grows into a strong oak tree with deep roots. These roots become a constant and stable source for medical student peace work activism in a continent that needs exactly this kind of energy to confront its deep seated issues with war and violence. Medical Peace Work is a transnational cooperation between medical peace practitioners, peace and health researchers, teaching institutions, and final users of the project’s outcomes.

Sixty-four medical students from five African countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia and Liberia) have completed the seven courses of the Medical Peace Work (MPW) curriculum, and are set to meet in a joint workshop 12-13 April in Nairobi to share their ideas, experiences and map the way forward for peace work activism in Africa. The MPW courses include topics such as “Health workers, conflict and peace,” “Structural violence & root causes of violent conflict,” and “Prevention of interpersonal & self-directed violence.”

The Medical Peace Work partnership is built on a European network of medical peace organizations and teaching institutions that gathered during The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in 1999 and the IPPNW World Congress in Paris in the year 2000. It collaborated in the MPW pilot project from 2005-2008. Additional partners have since then joined the network as we in phase II (MPW-2) focus on revision, dissemination and implementation. The overall management and administration of the MPW-2 project is carried out by the Health Department of the County Governor in Troms, Norway.

To make the Nairobi meeting possible, the students need to raise USD 10,000 (euro 7,500) to support travel and other logistics for the workshop. IPPNW Germany is a supporting sponsor can you help too?

For donations or more information, contact: Dr. Hellen Barsosio, IPPNW-Kenya- hellen.barsosio@gmail.com, or Maria Valenti, Director Aiming for Prevention – MValenti@ippnw.org

Lead partner: IPPNW-Kenya.
Supporting Partners: IPPNW-Germany, IPPNW affiliates in Africa.
Medical Peace Work Mentors: Drs. Klaus Melf, IPPNW-Norway, and Eva-Maria Schwienhorst, IPPNW-Germany




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