Two Kennedy School Graduates Examine Healthcare Challenges in Conflict Zones

June 9, 2009
by Doug Gavel

As security breaks down in conflict zones, citizens’ lives are increasingly put at risk – both on and off the battlefield. A Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) produced this spring by two recent Harvard Kennedy School graduates examines the breakdown in healthcare in regions affected by armed conflict, and offers recommendations for addressing the problem.
Marcia D. Fernandez MPP 2009 and Gloria Jin Kim MPP 2009 developed their research project in consultation with the 3D Security Initiative, a non-profit organization that promotes conflict prevention and peace-building strategies to U.S. foreign policymakers and shapers. They discovered that violence diverts precious resources away from healthcare providers and clinics, and leads to increased infant mortality, reduced immunization rates, and more prevalent outbreaks of infectious diseases.
“Armed conflict diminishes the quality of healthcare delivery, healthcare access, and living conditions. The results are tragic health patterns in conflict zones that further affect the stability of communities in the short, medium, and long term,” Fernandez and Kim conclude. “Our recommendations focus on how to effectively target vulnerable populations in health delivery into conflict zones, how to efficiently deliver healthcare on the ground, and how to best allocate health assistance during the budget process.”
Stephen Walt, Belfer professor of international relations, who served as faculty advisor on the project, called it “a creative and careful examination of the dramatic effects of internal violence on health care.”
Walt continued, “In addition to demonstrating a direct connection between conflict and several significant indicators of public health, they also showed that governments and relief agencies could still undertake meaningful steps to mitigate these effects, even when the underlying political issues were not resolved.”
The 3D Security Initiative has used an executive summary of the PAE as a policy brief to inform U.S. policymakers during meetings on Capitol Hill.
Following graduation, Fernandez hopes to work for a federal agency in a position that allows her to explore her interest in security policy while also drawing upon her training in policy analysis. Kim hopes to work as a foreign policy analyst for the U.S. government.

Photo of students Gloria Jin Kim MPP 2009 and Marcia D. Fernandez MPP 2009

Harvard Kennedy School students Gloria Jin Kim MPP 2009 (L) and Marcia D. Fernandez MPP 2009 (R)

“Armed conflict diminishes the quality of healthcare delivery, healthcare access, and living conditions. The results are tragic health patterns in conflict zones that further affect the stability of communities in the short, medium, and long term,” Fernandez and Kim conclude. “Our recommendations focus on how to effectively target vulnerable populations in health delivery into conflict zones, how to efficiently deliver healthcare on the ground, and how to best allocate health assistance during the budget process.”


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