Nurain Lakhani, pictured in the far right of the front row, at the 2018 VMUN conference. (Contributed)

Clayton Heights Secondary student represents at Vancouver Model United Nations

Students tackle world health issues at simulated United Nations conference

Clayton Heights Secondary student Nurain Lakhani attended the Vancouver Model United Nations conference at the end of January, and represented both his hometown of Cloverdale and United Nations member Malaysia.

Vancouver Model United Nations (VMUN) is a three-day conference in which high school students take part in a simulated United Nations. It is billed as the largest student-organized model United Nations conference in North America, and it takes place annually at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Vancouver.

Nurain, 13, was one of about 1,500 students to participate in the conference from Friday, Jan. 19 to Sunday, Jan. 21.

Each student represents a nation and sits on a committee tasked with tackling a global issue.

Since Nurain was selected for the World Health Organization (WHO) committee, he studied Malaysia’s health care system. The committee’s two topics for the weekend weren’t exactly light fare. Thes students discussed on-the-ground intervention during epidemics and medical black markets.

“I needed to find out if Malaysia had ever experienced an epidemic or helped during an epidemic somewhere else in the world — which they did,” said Nurain. “They helped with the Ebola outbreak, when over two and a half thousand people died from improper equipment. Malaysia, being the world’s largest producer of latex rubber gloves, sent 20 million [gloves] to the areas affected by the crisis.”

Black markets were a bit more difficult for a grade 8 student to research. “I didn’t really find anything,” Nurain admitted. “There was a black market presence, but I couldn’t find anything about it.”

He spoke from the podium at the conference to share a strategy for countries who suffer from mosquito-borne viruses to limit the spread of disease.

“Malaysia has a monsoon season and suffers from the dengue fever annually,” he said. “The reason why it doesn’t turn into an epidemic [every year] is because Malaysia has certain protocols in place so that the mosquitoes can’t breed.”

The idea, Nurain explained, is to eliminate or prevent standing water that mosquitoes could breed in.

“There are patrols making sure that if they see still water, they move it,” he said.

“Malaysia is not the only country that has dengue fever. Putting [Malaysia’s] protocols into place would help save lives.”

Malaysia’s position on medical black markets was that they needed to be eradicated. Part of the solution, Nurain said, was making health care more affordable and training more personnel, so that people don’t need to turn to the black market for treatment.

“My dad grew up in India, and he said that one of his friends who had to go in for leg surgery had to wait four months. It’s a country of over a billion people; there’s just not enough trained personnel,” he said.

So while Nurain represented Malaysia’s position on medical black markets accurately — they should be eradicated — he also drew from his own experience to recognize what the problem was for Malaysian citizens and offer a solution that meant the people in his country wouldn’t have to, say, wait four months for a critical surgery.

That’s the idea behind VMUN; uniting students to create solutions to major issues facing the globe in a fast-paced, intensive and collaborative environment, giving participants a chance to exercise critical thinking, diplomatic and speaking skills.

But while creative solutions are encouraged, United Nations delegates have to represent their assigned nations accurately, and act as ambassadors of their country’s current policies and interests.

Nurain said there were instances where students attempted to act in the interest of the global good, but were shut down because it was against their nation’s current policy. “We had a delegation from the U.S.A. in our [WHO] committee,” said Nurain. “The U.S. wanted to fund other countries’ health care systems … but it got ruled dilatory because it wasn’t going with the current U.S. position.”

Midnight crisis

The midnight crisis — an “emergency” meeting held at midnight on the last full day of the conference — was one of the best parts of the weekend, according to Nurain.

Students arrived at their committee sessions at midnight, and faced a simulated global crisis. The WHO committee was called to respond to a catastrophic flood in Sierra Leone, which left nearly the entire nation homeless and vulnerable to mosquito-borne disease.

“Cholera and malaria and dengue fever, they felt that that would pop up again because of all the still water,” Nurain explained. Another, simulated virus developed dubbed the “WHO virus” was introduced, which was spread through animal carcasses.

“It wasn’t fatal yet, but there were some minor symptoms,” he said. The committee decided to quarantine affected individuals, and put in protocols for vultures.

“We shut down the borders, we called in a different committee to help rebuild houses, we sent in medical personnel, medical equipment, some vaccines and medication, food and water and clothing.”

The crisis lasted until 2:30 a.m.

Although the weekend was intense, Nurain said he’d definitely recommend the program to his classmates.

He plans to return next year, and to continue attending the conference until he graduates high school.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

National PTSD awareness ride rolling into Langley

The Rolling Barrage 2018 ride will arrive next Tuesday and overnight in Langley.

Bevy of remarkable birthdays celebrated in Aldergrove

Maudie MacPherson (age 101), Vera Banner (91) and Alice Utas (95)

Throwback Thursday: August 16, 2018

Can you help us caption a photo from Langley’s past?

Langley’s Tbird preps to welcome Mounties for Musical Ride

The equestrian spectacle is coming to Langley Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

VIDEO: Langley Advance reader gears up to shop

Heather Green will do some reconnaissance ahead of her 1,000-second shopping spree next week.

VIDEO: LEC hosts job fair to lure new workers

The Langley Events Centre was looking for about 50 employees.

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former B.C. optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Mt. Hicks fire 15% contained, continues to burn north of Agassiz

The fire, suspected to be caused by a vehicle with a flat tire, not threatening any structures

Police responding to ‘unfolding’ incident in Maple Ridge suburb

Helicopter, dog team, guns drawn and 16 police vehicles at Maple Ridge property

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Most Read