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IPPNW Österreich (OMEGA)

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War - Austria

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Offizieller Bericht vom IPPNW - Studierendentreffen in Napoli im Frühjahr 2006

IPPNW European Student Conference 2006

What could make a city as beautiful as Napoli become even more interesting? Well, how about  more than 120 enthusiastic medical tudents, all gathered at one of the most impressive sites of the city Castello dell'Uovo), in order to look back on the year that has assed, to discuss what has been accomplished up to now and to set for hemselves new goals for the near future... That sounds good, doesn't it ? This is what happened from the 11th until the 14th of May, under he heat of the Napolitan sun; this was the IPPNW European Students ongress 2006!!!

Like every year, students from all corners of Europe came to the conference, driven by their desire to present their projects, to discuss the topics that interest them, to know some more about the human suffering that nowadays seems to have no end... and also to meet their friends from other countries. They came from far away places like Russia, Romania or Georgia, as well as from Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Ireland and, of course, there were the Italians who helped us discover their wonderful country. They did a great job in organising the entire event! The conference was made even more interesting due to the participation of Israeli and Palestinian students, who gave us an insight on what really happens in their countries. It was great to see them all together, eager to work, but also to have fun!

The first day was one of amusement. With the roar of the sea so near to the hostel, with the elegance of the boats silently floating in the harbour, with all the interesting Italian dishes on the table, we all just let ourselves be marvelled in this world... And with the help of the Italian students, discovering Napoli was easier than we all expected!

The next four days were filled with real seminar work, as delegations started to present their projects and achievements of the year. We were really lucky to have with us doctors like Gunnar Westberg (IPPNW Co-president from Sweden), Lars Pohlmeier (Germany), Judith Cook (UK), Michele diPaoloantonio (Italy) and Claudio Knüsli (Switzerland) – all experienced members of IPPNW. They were involved in the debates, added new points of view and, especially, served as good examples for the future doctors. During the workshops, students discussed topics like the present threat of nuclear weapons, the conflict between Palestine and Israel, medical problems in Iraq, paperless people in Europe and many more...

With the nuclear danger so close to us during these last years, discussion about it might have seemed just like a drop of water in the sea, but only after a few debates we understood that all these small
drops together could finally make a difference. We have the history of the IPPNW organisation to prove this to us, as Vicky Fera, the former European Student Representative showed in her presentation.

The NWIP workshop reminded all of us how important the work of IPPNW in eradicating all nuclear weapons is and that we live in a world in which the word "safe" has almost lost it's meaning. As for the issue of nuclear war, BanG presented the short movie "Genie in a bottle" - discovering the atomic bomb through the eyes of a child. The conclusion of the movie was that none of the political powers involved knew what they were setting free.

The danger comes not only from weapons, but also from nuclear plants still functioning. We had a sad celebration: 20 years since the tragedy of Chernobyl! And with this occasion, a debate regarding the effects of this terrible incident  took place between Dr. Mikhail Balonov (Russia), IAEA representative, and Dr. Claudio Knüsli (IPPNW Switzerland), which tried to show us that the real dimensions of the disaster aren't yet entirely known, that people who live in the affected area are still suffering, that certain economical and medical problems haven't been solved up to now and that, if a similar incident happened again, no country would be ready to deal with it. It was great to see that not only students from the most affected countries got involved in the discussions afterwards. The only viable solution that they found was to stop the functioning of these power plants as soon as possible!

The theme of the conference was "What one person can do?" Dr. Lars Pohlmeier answered this question with his presentation on the IPPNW project "Dialogues with Decision Makers" and talked about IPPNW members meeting with important political figures of the world and trying to change their attitude regarding nuclear weapons. Of course, things won't change over night, but we have to start somewhere. This is a job not only for the older members of the IPPNW, but one especially for the new generation of doctors who should realise that the responsibility of putting an end to the nuclear danger lies on their shoulders, too.

The Target X Project tried to draw public attention to the US nuclear bombs stationed in Italy, as all the IPPNW students put on their white coats and started talking to the persons walking on Piazza Dante, handing out flyers and explaining the devastating effects that such a blast would have on the centre of their city.

Since IPPNW members are also worried about non-nuclear conflicts in the world, there were some workshops and plenaries on other issues as well. First of all, there was the presentation on the "Health
situation in Iraq", by Dr. Heba Al Naseri and Dr. Judith Cook from MedAct (IPPNW UK), which opened the eyes of many on an existing problem about which we don't hear so much in the news. Finding real
available solutions for it during the debates afterwards was a challenge, but at least people got interested in what is going on in the medical system of Iraq.

One of the most interesting workshops that we had was the one given by the team of the Refugee Camp Project ReCap – this is a project in which students from more than 20 countries are involved and which tries to help children in the Palestinian refugee camps. The participants of last year described their journey as "the best four weeks of their lives" and I could just see on their faces how glad
they are that they went there and how much this experience enriched them spiritually. During their presentation, they drew the attention on the pain of the people living in those camps and also on the fact that so many things have to be done in this country devastated by war.

hat I admired about them was the fact that they made the first steps:
they got involved, they went there and now they are spreading the information.

During their workshop, the Israeli delegation presented how medical students and doctors working in the Jerusalem hospitals are trying to create an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in the medical environment. Though the conflicts in this part of the world are far from over, they are starting to raise the foundations of peace, which is great news!

At the end of these four wonderful days, some administrative issues were also solved: the election of two new European Student Representatives for the next year. They are Noora Kaikkonen from Finland and Alexandra "Andra" Corbu from Romania.  They are replacing Vicky Fera from Ireland and Ante Pettersson from Finland, who both did a wonderful job during the last year and who also helped both of the two new ESR in the first weeks after the elections.

The entire conference was under the sign "What one person can do…", so everyone focused on finding ways of helping people that could easily be translated into projects ran by medical students. This was the part were the joy of living, the hard work and the brain-storming sessions really paid off. Most of the newcomers realised the danger of nuclear weapons and looked for ways to get involved in activities (inscribing in older projects or starting information campaigns in their own countries).

These four days passed as if they were a dream – a dream of youth and enthusiasm, of hope and tolerance, of trust and help. Was it real? As I think of all the people that I've met there, of their plans for the next year, of their ideas for the future, of all the joy and energy that just filled the conference rooms, I realise that this is more than a reality. It's something that we should see more often, that we should encourage and admire. It was a great event that allowed people from all the corners of Europe to meet, exchange ideas and start new projects.

So, let's just dream some more - not only in Napoli…

Andra Corbu
IPPNW European Student Representative
4th year student at the University of Medicine "Carol Davila"
Bucharest, Romania



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