Every year millions of people worldwide are affected by disasters and more than ever, skilled design professionals are needed to help rebuild in the wake of tragedy.
Dr Ifte Ahmed has helped develop the Master of Disaster, Design and Development (MoDDD) at RMIT to arm people with the skills they need to support communities in rebuilding sustainably after emergencies and disasters.
From his studies in architecture and work across consultancies, Ahmed has developed a strong interest in the disaster and development field and engaged in humanitarian and development projects around the world.
He previously worked at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in Thailand and for the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh.
We speak with him to learn more about what students should expect from the MoDDD degree.
Why is this the right time for people to study in the disaster and development field?
In 2014 more than a 100 million people were affected by disasters world-wide. The world is increasingly being affected by disasters, usually as a consequence of climate change.
In addition, the spread of new epidemics such as Ebola and Zika virus has created a new set of challenges.
On top of this we have the current global refugee crisis, conflicts and terrorism, which have made the world very unsafe and unstable.
Now is the time for professionals to study and gain capacity to deal with these disasters and crises that are threatening the well-being of our planet.
What makes MoDDD different from other programs in Australia and overseas?
This program is embedded in real-world practice and deals with contemporary and pressing problems. Its practical nature makes it engaging and stimulating.
Students will be exposed to the work and thinking of leading practitioners from globally prominent agencies such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UN-Habitat, World Vision and RedR.
What are the benefits of studying MoDDD?
The program caters to students from a wide range of backgrounds such as international development, public health, education, media and communication, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, planning and construction, project management and logistics; students will therefore be able to learn in a diverse environment with peers from a range of backgrounds.
By studying MoDDD, students will develop the multidisciplinary skills that will enable them to deal with a natural disaster situation or a complex emergency.
Throughout the program, students will explore various types of spatial planning strategies and concepts.
They will also learn skills that will allow them to effectively apply, plan and coordinate needs assessments, develop project management strategies and implement plans for disaster risk reduction and emergency relief.
How have you been involved with the preparation and planning of the program?
I have worked very closely on developing this program since the beginning; I’ve been involved in its curriculum development through to its promotion.
I’m teaching in areas such as Shelter and Settlements in Disasters and Development, Building Urban Resilience and Climate Change, Design and Disasters, a field-based course in Vietnam.
I’m looking forward to the overall delivery of the program, in particular, the field visit course to Vietnam.
This course will allow students to engage with learning from professionals and communities in one of the most climate change threatened countries in the world.
Most importantly, connecting with the students would be the most enriching experience, because they would be bringing in a diverse range of perspectives and experiences from different fields and backgrounds.
You recently co-authored a book about sustainable housing reconstruction, how do you think it will help to inform policymakers and professionals when working in international and development disaster risk management sectors?
I’d like my book, Sustainable Housing Reconstruction: Designing Resilient Housing after Natural Disasters, to serve as a guide for agencies acting in the reconstruction field to help them understand some of the core issues in the area and how they can be better addressed in the future.
In a world where we are experiencing an increasing amount of natural disasters, there is a strong need to understand the needs and context of disaster-affected communities.
I think that this can be done by strengthening professional capacity and integrating housing with a range of elements that can protect people and property in the long term. This will establish resilient and sustainable future communities.
Success Begins Here: Study the Master of Disaster, Design and Development.
Story: Jordan Di Stefano