November 17, 2016

Interactive Refugee Exhibit Aims for ‘the Heart and the Head’

Written by ASTMH

This post originally appeared on ASTMH.

The camera zooms in on small boats taking on water and bobbing in the sea, filled with so many people that they are perilously close to capsizing. It’s difficult to watch. Thankfully, a rescue boat arrives and begins pulling people to safety. The scene then shifts to a man standing amidst a giant menagerie of life vests piled in massive mounds, grimly sorting them by size: one for a small child, one for an adolescent, another for adults.

“Every one of these life jackets has a history and a life,” he says.

So begins “The Refugee Journey to Wellbeing,” an interactive exhibit on display at the 2016 ASTMH Annual Meeting organized by ASTMH in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with colleagues at the International Organization on Migration, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the UN High Commissioner on Refugees.

The film captures poingant  scenes from the wrenching journey undertaken by just a sample of the 65.3 million people ensnared in today’s global refugee crisis. It then continues with mock-ups of refugee camp reception and screening centers to demonstrate how refugees are registered and then carefully and thoroughly assessed and treated for health problems before being resettled.

Martin Cetron, MD, (left, in photo) director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said the goal of the exhibit is to “reach the head and the heart,” to depict both the intense emotions of the refugee experience and to educate people about the extensive health screening and treatment that occurs before refugees resettle in the United States or other host countries.