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

Budget cuts at Kwantlen Polytechnic will mean larger classes

President of Kwantlen faculty association says administration salaries are going up

Fraser Valley Thunderbirds take silver in finals of new minor midget hockey league

Team of mostly Langley players will have a new look in the second season

Langley tutor lauded on ice

Sylvia Lloyd was recognized for the work she does – paid and unpaid – helping tutor children.

Trappers on brink of elimination after third loss

“We’ve got to play desperate hockey’ coach of Langley hockey team says

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

Teacher reprimanded after incident with Grade 11 student in school gym

Gregory Norman Brock was teaching at a high school in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Avalanche control tomorrow on Highway 1

Expect closures of up to two hours east of Revelstoke

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Most Read