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  • Humanitarian aid workers support millions of people around the world

  • affected by conflict and natural disasters.

  • They are exposed to stress and trauma

  • day in, day out,

  • they help save lives, but they often put their own lives at risk.

  • I've witnessed huge amounts of trauma and violence and death

  • and it is very stressful.

  • There are times when you start questioning what you're doing there,

  • but then you think about what would happen if you weren't there.

  • It's very hard when you see someone struggling with their lives.

  • And at that point when you see you can do nothing

  • it has its impact on us emotionally.

  • There's a saying in humanitarian aid work

  • that it's not the bombs and bullets that are our greatest enemy,

  • it's our own despair.

  • How do they cope with the pain, the suffering they see?

  • What does it take to be a humanitarian in our time?

  • I believe that every single human life matters.

  • There is a lot of politics in this world

  • and a lot of people like to reduce humans to numbers

  • and to masses, and to take away the individual story.

  • Every single person who's a refugee,

  • every single person who's migrating,

  • seeking a better life for themselves and their children

  • has a story, they are somebody's son or daughter,

  • brother or sister.

  • And we have to remember that.

  • Every single one of those lives is precious.

  • The reason that I wanted to do something with my life

  • was because I had been a refugee in Pakistan

  • and I could see the differences

  • that the refugees and the local people had there

  • and I wanted to do something.

  • During my time in different conflict zones

  • I was very acutely aware, as were my colleagues,

  • that we're constantly at risk of being maybe kidnapped,

  • being caught up in the conflict, accidentally,

  • but also maybe being targeted.

  • And there's been plenty of times where I've accepted the risk

  • to go to an area because I felt willing to accept

  • the possibility that something could happen to me.

  • If international aid workers like myself weren't in those areas

  • providing these types of services,

  • working with the local doctors, nurses, medics, everybody else

  • to try and provide healthcare services to the population,

  • then you can't really comprehend how much worse it could even get

  • if we weren't there.

  • Many of us have our own ideas about what kind of a person

  • becomes an aid worker. Are they accurate?

  • I think everybody has to realise that humanitarian workers are not saints.

  • It is a real profession, humanitarian work.

  • We're here because we want to do a good job,

  • and we want to help people.

  • And at the same time, we're also still just people

  • who have our own flaws, our own faults, our own whims,

  • our own wants.

  • I think one of the big misconceptions

  • about humanitarian aid workers and charity workers, in general perhaps,

  • is that we're a bunch of naive do-gooders

  • who are idealists and perhaps not really acquainted

  • with the brutal realities of life

  • and all the political compromises involved.

  • Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Not all humanitarians are nice people.

  • Part of my job is to be quite difficult with people,

  • and quite stubborn, and not always very pleasant.

  • So humanitarians are no different to anyone else really.

  • They're not saints, they're not heroes, they're ordinary folk

  • who have a conviction and a vocation and want to make a contribution.

  • Is it harder to be a foreign aid worker

  • or to work in your own community?

  • Brutal civil wars are terrible settings to find yourself in.

  • And the role of internationalism and international solidarity

  • is very, very important.

  • A lot of people say, "Hold on, isn't that just 'white saviourism',

  • isn't that just the West and its white supremacy

  • and its coloniality in modern form?"

  • But the truth of the matter is, on the ground,

  • the primary role of being an international member of staff

  • is one of solidarity with your national colleagues.

  • And actually, you're there to bear witness

  • to what they are going through.

  • The truth of the matter is, in places like Afghanistan,

  • there are very few international aid workers on the ground.

  • So it's national staff who are present

  • and it's very, very sad

  • but often they are paying the ultimate sacrifice.

  • Save the Children has lost quite a number

  • of our Afghan staff over the years.

  • The risks that are for international staff

  • are greater than for the national staff

  • because we can easily blend in.

  • For example, the places I visit,

  • people cannot recognise who I am,

  • because the clothing that we use, everything is comparatively the same.

  • For example, if I'm in an area and there's an attack,

  • I can easily blend in and get back to home.

  • Working in conflict zones, in desperate situations,

  • can be extremely stressful.

  • How does that affect aid workers themselves?

  • There's a lot of cost to being a humanitarian.

  • You pay for it in terms of your mental health,

  • your physical health, broken relationships,

  • missed occasions with family and loved ones.

  • I have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder

  • as a result of my early experiences in difficult, brutal civil wars.

  • But the way I deal with that

  • is through something very joyous actually.

  • I choose to be intentionally hopeful for humanity.

  • What I've gained is this innate appreciation

  • for the joy of humanity

  • in all its forms all over the world.

  • I believe aid workers are strong individuals,

  • highly motivated, and have strong will and hope.

  • For example, for myself,

  • working as a humanitarian and having the ability to work

  • with displaced population,

  • vulnerable people that are displaced by conflict

  • or natural disaster or a natural pandemic like Covid-19 in 2020.

  • It was a very harsh environment and we worked tirelessly.

  • And that is not luxury, but it gives you inner peace.

Humanitarian aid workers support millions of people around the world

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Why do aid workers risk their lives to help others? | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/20
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