Meet our Beirut academic: serving communities in Syria

From her home in Beirut, Assistant Professor Diana Maddah is working with people in northwest Syria, following the devastating earthquakes in February. UK-Med have team members all over the world, and Diana has been with us for more than two years.

Her PhD in Health Promotion had a focus on mental health in young people and the project she’s running is all about Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) – supporting and empowering communities to make decisions about their own health and well-being.

Focusing on people’s behaviours and their ability to follow public health and social measures is a really powerful way to respond and build back from disasters.

UK-Med, working with the WHO

Diana is currently seconded by UK-Med to the World Health Organisation, who are running the project until the end of April. RCCE is a relatively new term in the humanitarian sector, involving two-way and multi-directional communication and engagement with affected population, so that they can take informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Diana’s work day is half operational and half academic. “I still teach as an Assistant Professor at the American University of Beirut and I am an active researcher, contributing to WHO guidelines at a global level.”

Diana training community health workers.

The RCCE Project

Working remotely, Diana has to date trained 230 community health workers in Syria.

Delivered in Arabic, she’s building their capacity to respond to disasters and meet the needs of the population, from dealing with disease in the community to ensuring a strong community feedback loop.

“It’s a two-day course and the feedback has been absolutely amazing. People are very happy to receive our support and expertise, and they enjoy the interactivity, role play, case studies and discussion.”

I offer information and tools, two-way conversations and help translate any fears, concerns and behaviours into positive action. The feedback has been absolutely amazing.

As well as training, Diana is designing, editing, and testing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, and is documenting best practices in a brand-new booklet that also reflects the localised approach of the WHO.

“This project is vital because it focuses on informing and engaging people on how to reduce their risk and better protect themselves. By understanding how the people we’re helping perceive risk, we can work with them and decide on the best interventions. I offer information and tools, two-way conversations and help translate any fears, concerns and behaviours into positive action. It’s a hugely rewarding process for everyone involved.”

UK-Med is the go-to UK Emergency Response Team (EMT) and specialises in first phase emergency response to disasters. We deploy our expertise in the initial days, weeks and months that follow a disaster and are the only British NGO to run a WHO-approved Emergency Medical Team.

Our team-members like Diana can only continue to provide vital training and programmes such as this one with your help. Please donate whatever you can today, here.

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