Students from SEK International Schools and Camilo José Cela University who take part in SEK’s MUN models (SEKMUN and MiMUN) were given the opportunity to listen to Héctor Ibarra, former SEK-Ciudalcampo student, who talked about his experience working with the United Nations in Lebanon, and how his life has changed since he decided to devote himself to humanitarian causes a few years ago at the hands of World Food Programme (WFP) in Bangladesh.

Ibarra, graduate in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Autonomous University of Madrid and with a Master’s in Mathematical Models which he studied in Italy and Germany, talked about what a mathematician does in a refugee camp. In this case he worked as a data analyst for the World Food Programme in Bangladesh and currently as a Data Solutions Leader for United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA of the United Nations) in Lebanon.

The former SEK-Ciudalcampo student explained what a refugee camp is like and the challenges that the United Nations and other organisations encounter. Héctor Ibarra talked about his work in providing documentation and identity to its refugees (taking a census of people and giving them identification cards), feeding them, giving them shelter (it is an area with monsoons and floods, wild animals such as elephants…), conserving habitats (preventing uncontrolled uprooting of trees and vegetation and preventing desertification), maintaining hygiene conditions (ensuring there is no stagnant water to prevent diseases such as malaria, cholera…), providing education, giving them dignity, providing them with solar panels to boost agriculture or teaching them to recycle to take advantage of any raw material within their reach.

Ibarra remarked that, as a mathematician, he worked in a refugee camp in Bangladesh carrying out the population census and managing the monetary accounts of each family, with which they make their purchases in the market of the refugee camp itself. He was also responsible for analysing data such as displaced or missing families, demographic fields, logistics and supply chain provision, behaviour patterns or nutrition of vulnerable children.

Currently, Héctor Ibarra lives in Lebanon, specifically in Beirut, where he works for the United Nations at ESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), trying to implement the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda in West Asian countries.

Ibarra is the leader of a team, within a group of eighty people, that deals with information and communication. Among its automation and machine learning tasks, it performs sentiment analysis (a tool that analyses how people feel about publications or news on social media such as climate change in some areas, for example) or geolocated information on water resources, the climate or the quality of the water that exists on the surface and underground.

Héctor Ibarra reported that he decided to work for the United Nations to seek new challenges, live in developing countries, meet new people from many parts of the world and experience experiences that he could not have in Spain. Finally, he answered the questions from the students from SEK International Schools and Camilo José Cela University who attended his digital talk.