Past Summer & Spring LABs Summer LAB 2019

Public Health and Refugees in Transition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Duration: 19 to 26 May, 2019

Leading faculty: Dr Kaveh Khoshnood (Yale School of Public Health) and Dr Veena Pillai (Dhi Consulting & Training, KL)

On this LAB, students learned about the public health challenges faced by refugees and health professionals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia is a transitional country for refugees, with a total of 163,860 refugees registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as of December 2018 [Figures at a Glance, UNHCR Malaysia]. Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its Protocol and does not have an organised asylum system regulating the status and rights of refugees. This absence of a legal framework is a source of great unpredictability in the lives of refugees in the country, including restricting their access to health services. This poses complex public health challenges that range from communicable diseases to child health.

This LAB examined these challenges from the health professionals’ perspective, as well as from the perspective of the refugee community. Students visited UNHCR, refugee health clinics and refugee community-based organisations where they had the opportunity to engage with key stakeholders involved in the issues. The LAB used a combination of structured, site- or community-based and group learning. Students learned to apply information gained during the programme to projects targeted towards solutions and public health advocacy. In addition, students learned the ethics framework for humanitarian research.

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  • The Kuala Lumpur LAB was an unparalleled learning experience. The programme involved workshops and talks with several non-governmental organisation leaders, doctors, activists, and refugees, as well as group projects on topics such as vaccinations and mental health. We all left with a much deeper understanding of the public health challenges that refugees around the world faced –and, most importantly, with an awareness of the ways in which one could help.

    Daniela Ferreira Franco Moura
    Class of 2022

  • Embarking on the LAB was an immensely eye-opening and humbling experience. None of us predicted we would learn so much just by stepping outside of the classroom, immersed in a new environment. We were introduced to public health, the numerous difficulties assisting refugees and asylum seekers, and also the warmth and utter resilience of the many parties involved. This LAB sowed the seeds for much of my later interests and goals.

    Amirul Hakim
    Class of 2022

  • The ‘Public Health and Refugees in Transition’ LAB was an amazing opportunity that allowed us to reimagine public health issues from the ground up. From meeting the leaders of refugee advocacy groups to engaging with lawyers at community legal clinics, this LAB gave us an unprecedented window into grassroots activism. Thank you to CIPE for this opportunity!

    Jacinta Speer
    Class of 2022