This fall, three NYU master’s students in the New York University College of Global Public Health global health concentration traveled to Bangladesh to work at UNICEF’s Cox’s Bazar field office. Over a 6-week period, the students worked to understand the specific needs of Rohingya refugees.
Ms. Emily Holzman focused on nutrition, working to assess perceptions and beliefs around nutrition services and the idea of community feedback meetings in the camps. Ms. Jessie Drescher worked on health, designing a community vigilance team that would mobilize during and after a cyclone to avoid large-scale disease outbreak and keep the community informed of the accessibility of health services. Lastly, Mr. Corbin Kappler focused on information and feedback centers in the camps. He worked to understand their impact and find ways to make them more efficient and useful in strengthening community ties. The students’ average day in Cox’s Bazar varied, but they sought any opportunity to research and learn in this environment and returned with invaluable insight into humanitarian response.
The students first learned of this internship opportunity in January 2018 through NYU’s “Behavioral Communication Strategies for Global Epidemics” course in Kathmandu, Nepal. Designed by Dr. Chris Dickey, director of the Global Health Program at NYU, this course focuses on behavior change communication strategies for disease outbreaks and other large-scale emergencies. It also brings together leading public health experts, UNICEF staff, and MPH students. A unique feature of the course is that program participants work together to design strategies to address disease outbreaks for real-life scenarios that UNICEF staff face daily. During the course in Nepal, the students’ project focused on mitigating a diphtheria and measles outbreak in Cox’s Bazar among the refugees, which led to their internship in Bangladesh. The course will be offered again in Spring 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon.
More information about the global health program at NYU, including course descriptions.
In expressing how her time in the field added to the lessons she learned during the course, Ms. Drescher explained, “One observation I made during my experience is that it is easy to take the individual out of the equation when you are facing a humanitarian crisis of this size, especially when it is classified as an ‘emergency.’ Fortunately, there have been times when I have had personal moments and intimate conversations with families to remind me of the human side of this story.”
After completing their field work, the students presented their recommendations to leadership at UNICEF’s Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka offices. Their presentations were met with positive feedback. As a result, the students also presented their recommendations at the New York UNICEF HQ on November 8th. All three students plan to return to Cox’s Bazar in the near future to follow-up on their individual projects to ensure that their recommendations are implemented.