Eleanor Gray

Thesis Title: Precarity, adaptation and humanitarian resilience: a cultural geography of health and wellbeing on the frontline of the climate crisis in Chad

Abstract: The climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. Disproportionately and most acutely affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, it poses an unprecedented challenge for humanitarian action both in terms of scope and scale. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), alongside other humanitarian actors, has committed to urgent collective action to address this crisis, and doing so in collaboration with communities and local actors. This represents a new frontier of medical humanitarianism – one focused on climate and environmental health, community resilience, and pre-emptive action, rather than strictly emergency medicine. However, what this looks like in practice requires new knowledge, tools, and ways of working, as well as a different conceptual orientation of humanitarian aid. MSF’s work in Chad is on the frontline of the climate crisis, where extreme socio-economic precarity, protracted conflict, and climate breakdown intersect, resulting in some of the highest mortality rates in the world – rates only predicted to worsen with intensifying patterns of extreme heat, desertification, flooding, and droughts. By asking how MSF can adapt its medical humanitarian response in the context of the climate crisis in Chad, this project aims to inform MSF’s programming as well as shed new light on this emerging frontier of humanitarianism. Empirical work will be grounded in an eight-month multimodal ethnography drawing upon a diverse social-science toolkit, including in-depth interviews, village case studies and participatory-mapping. By exploring both organisational and communities’ perspectives, it aims to generate new knowledge that recognizes both technical expertise and expertise inherent in lived experience, as well as consider how they can be combined to envisage new humanitarian futures.