Whenever and wherever there are people in need, there will be others who will help them. Celebrating World Humanitarian Day 2022Published: Aug 18, 2022 Reading time: 9 minutes
Humanitarian workers are often affected by tragedy themselves, and they are always the first to respond when disaster strikes. Whilst the global community supports them as they recover, affected people often come together to ease each other's suffering and bring hope to seemingly dire situations. Every year on World Humanitarian Day, we commemorate our fallen colleagues and honour humanitarian workers everywhere who risk their lives to provide aid and comfort to people impacted by conflicts, natural disasters, or the effects of climate change.
According to UN:
• In 2021, 460 aid workers were attacked: 140 killed, 203 wounded and 117 kidnapped. (Aid workers security)
• Of the aid workers who died, 98% were national staff, and 2% were international (expatriate) staff—more than half (53%) were staff of national NGOs.
• Most of the violence occurred in South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria.
• Casualties are expected to rise significantly in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine, where indiscriminate rocket attacks and shelling threaten civilians and aid providers alike.
• The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview estimated that in Yemen, 20.7 million people (67% of the population) need humanitarian assistance, 12.1 million of whom are estimated to be in acute need; this makes Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. (Global Humanitarian Overview)
On average, at People in Need, we respond to more than 20 emergencies affecting an estimated 4 million people each year. Natural disasters and the impact of climate change are forcing more people from their homes and exposing them to violence, exploitation, malnutrition and disease. Moreover, armed conflict, civil unrest, and the targeting of humanitarian workers have made recent years the deadliest on record for the aid community.
We employ 1,887 people in total, with most of our colleagues hired in the countries where we work. Among them, you can find teachers, drivers, water supply workers, project managers, security officers, and others. They are the ones the most at risk; without them, humanitarian aid just would not happen. They are the first to assist in natural disasters, stabilise situations, and provide psychological help to most affected people. Often, their work can only be done efficiently together with partners.
Working in emergency and high-risk settings can be extremely fulfilling, and every emergency duty station presents its own unique opportunities and challenges.
This year, we want to introduce you to our local humanitarian workers to let them tell their personal stories of why they chose to work in the humanitarian sector and what are the results of their work:
Born into a family of 13, it wasn't easy for Astha. She had never been out of the home or city alone. Astha notes, "as a woman, I was always told not to stay outside the house after five p.m. People in Need called me for an interview and asked if I could work in the remotest areas of Gorkha district, the epicentre of the landslides . I told my father about it, and he asked me whether I was sure if I could do it or not." Currently, Astha is working as a Project Manager of a consortium project, ‘Durable Solutions III’. The project works with flood-affected landless people of Madhesh Province. The project aims to systematically include landless households at risk of flood to access governmental grants before, during and after floods through the facilitation of durable solutions for increased resilience of at-risk landless families.
Arpine had worked in the education sector for 25 years; however, two years ago, she changed her career trajectory and joined us to work in the humanitarian field. As she states: "I have always worked in the public sector, and I have never perceived myself as a non-governmental organisation employee. However, after the war, I suffered psychologically and felt myself in the shoes of my compatriots, who suffered from displacement and casualties. I realised I should empathise with and help them." Overall, humanitarian aid workers should be appreciated as they risk their lives to save and support others by providing life-saving assistance to those who face conflicts, natural or man-made disasters and poverty.
National aid workers, who work with NGOs in their home countries, often endure difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions to deliver aid to those in need. In countries like Syria, national staff form the backbone of PIN's projects. We spoke with three of our Syrian colleagues to commemorate World Humanitarian Day. Rather than leave Syria, Fahed decided to stay and help rebuild his community that had been so deeply scarred by war. “I feel responsible for my community,” he said. “I believe in the goals of humanitarian work. We cannot all leave our country. We have to stay and help our people.”
Being flexible and adaptable are key qualities for succeeding in aid work because daily work can be challenging. In Ethiopia, humanitarian workers often spend several hours a day driving on dusty, bumpy roads to visit project sites and beneficiaries or local representatives. Anteneh admits that his job is challenging because he cannot always be with his wife and two-year-old son. “I often live for long periods of time in remote areas. Implementing aid projects is difficult, and things are unpredictable. Our work can often be delayed, disrupted, or destroyed by instabilities and security challenges that could erupt at any time.”
“I became an aid worker seven years ago. I believe that through this career, I would be able to help marginalised populations or vulnerable groups as much as possible and improve their living standards,” says Chhoem Sovannarith, our colleague working to improve lives in Cambodia.Chhoem decided to work for People in Need because of our profile–a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that operates in many countries around the world and has many programs providing humanitarian aid to the beneficiaries in the regions affected by natural hazards, pandemics, and conflict.
Aliona Plugaru has more than 20 years of professional experience in the NGO sector. She initially managed a community development small grants programme in northern Moldova. Aliona has done pioneering work, teaching people in the remotest villages of Moldova what civil society is and how to develop and get projects that address community problems concerning the areas of health, economy, and education. She never thought she would end up working in a time of uncertainty and in an area so close to war. Although she has seen a lot of suffering in her 20-plus years, she admits that the war in Ukraine has affected her quite a bit: “War is a tragedy for humanity. We were all on constant alert because we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring”.
Natural disasters and armed conflicts have motivated Kyaw Kyaw Nyein to help his neighbours. He initially worked for local non-profit organisations and later came to work for us, where he helped with aid distributions. Today, he is employed as a WASH (WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Field Facilitator, and he has been working at PIN for three years. Kyaw renovates latrines, builds rainwater tanks and constructs places where women can wash in safety. "My wife is proud of me and supports me in my work." Kyaw sees a future in sustainable development that would also provide jobs for IDPs who have long been without financial income due to conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local aid workers play a central role in providing humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. They were the first to intervene immediately after the invasion and remain the primary humanitarian assistance providers in Ukraine. In addition to acute assistance, it is necessary to repair houses before the onset of winter. "We are doing our best to rehabilitate roofs, repair damaged windows, and perform other repair tasks for people whose houses were affected by the fighting. We do this so that they can return home and survive the upcoming winter", shares Roman, whose biggest wish is to meet with all his friends when the war ends.
Mauricio Kapenda previously worked for the Angolan Health Institute, has been working for People in Need since 2018.
Mauricio is happy to work in a team full of experienced colleagues who share their experiences with him; thanks to this, he too can develop. "Today, I look at things on a global scale". He adds when sharing his experience of working with People in Need.
"We have very different profiles of applicants, which is good, the organisation is made up of people, and that diversity and variety are essential, complementary and shifting." Says Dora Grimová, Head of HR
If we were to describe our colleagues, they are first and foremost pleasant people , often strong personalities—professionals who are intelligent and decisive. Our recruitment process is precisely defined across the entire organisation. Part of such recruitment is stress resistance, finding out what situations the candidate has already experienced and how they have behaved or reacted. Employee safety is always our top priority. There are subject/site experts within the organisation in the field of safety. We constantly monitor the safety situation in the countries we work in or travel through. A particular focus is placed on all vulnerable groups, including local colleagues, women, and the people we help. Dora adds: "The interesting thing about humanitarian work is the variety, the scope, the experience you gain, and last but not least, the people you meet."
On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day (WHD).
Since 2012, six of our Syrian colleagues have been killed whilst working to help the people of Syria. In June 2015, the worst tragedy in our history struck when nine of our Afghan colleagues were killed in an attack. We continue to work in Syria and Afghanistan in their memory.