While this academic year has posed a challenge for students across the country who have been learning in a remote or hybrid context, it hasn’t stopped our amazing network of UNICEF on Campus Clubs from advocating and fundraising for world’s most vulnerable children.
Western University’s UNICEF Club held a case competition around the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, and the winning team takes us through their strategy to address humanitarian needs in South Sudan.
What made you want to be involved with UNICEF Campus Clubs?
Lana Abdelellah - I am majoring in political sciences and working for the government as a part time job; the reason behind my joining the UNICEF Campus Club is because helping others in need is my main goal in life. I saw the opportunity of being able to create change by coming up with a plan that might end a humanitarian crisis and was happy to take it.
Hanein Mostafa Elgaby - I love helping others, especially children, and always want to be a force of change in this world whether it be in a small way or a big one. UNICEF combines those two things I love, therefore, I believed this competition would be a great way to gain research and collaboration skills through something I was already passionate about. Additionally, being a first year student, I found this to be a wonderful opportunity to meet some of my peers at Western so I seized it.
Sherry Zhang - Coming from a background of studying child rights and the changing status of childhood, participating in the International Policy Competition hosted by UNICEF Western strengthened my views on how institutional changes can make an impact on children’s experience. We were able to research and develop solutions on real-world issues, build connections and critically reflect on childhood and humanitarian topics internationally.
Andrei Mosu - I thought it would be a good opportunity to cultivate our research skills and meet like-minded peers. I am also interested in discovering how UNICEF approaches various global crises, and to see if there was any way for us to participate and help out.
Describe the case competition and why you chose South Sudan as a focus area.
Our case competition was a full day 5-hour event, wherein student teams of 3-5 were given the opportunity to create innovative proposals to the crisis at hand and present them in front of a panel of judges. UNICEF Western managed to make the most out of the educational experience that case competitions often offer, we had a keynote speaker talk about the economic empowerment of refugees and a panel of speakers working in International Affairs engage in discussion with the students.
Overall, the event was an all-round success as we had more than 100 signed up participants and 18 student teams from a variety of faculties at Western University. Everyone was prepared to learn, engage, and make an impact, however small, on the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
We chose to focus this year’s case on the crisis in South Sudan for several reasons. The country has been in political turmoil for far too long and the effects the civil war had on the country’s civilians, especially children, had been blatantly dire. As such, the case focused on three main subtopics: child survival and development, education and learning, and policy, evidence and social protection. Students were allowed to prioritize one main focus area for their proposal - a very feasible strategy to tackle one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
How did you arrive at your winning strategy?
We evaluated how past and ancient civilizations came to be and decided to implement some of the strategies they used for stability. We divided the issue into three main categories and prioritized them. Finally, we looked for long-term solutions that did not rely on government support.
The team leader assigned each member individual tasks and deadlines to keep things on track, Zoom meetings were required to do some group thinking, mainly to approve/disapprove any ideas and alternatives to them. Overall we had a great functioning team which led to great ideas.
Within the primary issue – access to consistent food and water sources – what do you think is the most important step to implement and why?
As with many developing countries, South Sudan has an alarming hunger and malnutrition crisis as the country’s government continues to struggle finding its citizens stability. The harsh climate, wet season, and summer droughts have had a negative impact on the agriculture of South Sudan, resulting in a widespread famine.
The long-term plan/goal of conquering the food crisis should be aimed towards land rehabilitation - particularly managing water throughout the year. This in effect will allow the South Sudanese to sustain their agriculture throughout the drought/rainy seasons.
In our presentation, we mentioned building Bhungroos, greenhouses and other long-term solutions to solve the issue of malnutrition. The solution we offered was long-term, efficient and within the budget of UNICEF.
Was there any alternate solutions you considered, and why did you decide to not include them (cost, feasibility, etc.)?
We had no alternate solutions, we made sure the solution we chose to present is a cohesive plan. Every element is an important one to solve the issues we were facing. When the team had Zoom meetings we made sure to go through every element we added to the plan and question difficulties we might face when applying it.
The reason to why we did not think of an alternate plan is that our main plan was put in place making sure it does not depend on the government of South Sudan, the cheapest cost so it fits within UNICEF’s budget, and having multiple solutions to one problem. When it comes to smaller details, we had alternate solutions within the main plan itself, for example, solving the issue of malaria, we provided in our plan multiple solutions at a very low cost to end the spread of malaria including mosquito repelling plants and mosquito nets.
What did the case competition help inform or educate on, with regards to international aid projects?
Modern solutions do not work well for every problem, sometimes it is best to look back at what others have done a long time ago to try to solve current problems. It is a time consuming process that needs lots of work, funding, and the cooperation of the community dealing with the shortages of basic needs and other supplies.
To learn more about the UNICEF on Campus Clubs, to locate one at your school, or to find out more about setting up your own Campus Club, please visit our UNICEF on Campus page. Thank you to the UNICEF Western club for sharing your great ideas with us!