Being an International Humanitarian Worker: What You Need to Know


Being an International Humanitarian Worker: What You Need to Know

The conflict in Syria is ongoing. Nearly a hundred people died from the heatwave in India in June of 2019. The Rohingya refugees are still unable to return to their homes in Myanmar for fear of continued persecution. Crises seem to be everywhere.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or OCHA reported that about $21.9 billion is required for 2019 to attend to the humanitarian crises around the globe. And this figure does not even cover the support needed in Syria.

But the world continues to spin, and an army of international aid and humanitarian workers around the world make sure that the fight to end poverty, sickness, and conflict continues. If these situations tug at your heartstrings, you can consider becoming an international aid or humanitarian worker.

Whether you’re a nurse or a medical practitioner, perhaps beyond putting your CV on the radar of a locum tenens service provider, you could also visit international aid job sites for your next gig.

Some Are Risky

While not all situations or all countries present risks, know that this might become part of your reality. Volunteering for one of the health projects of the Bangladesh Women’s Health Coalition (BWHC) might present some risks to your safety as opposed to a posting in areas where there is conflict or areas where diseases can be contracted (e.g., malaria or dengue).

Note, however, that thousands of international aid workers have come before you and safety protocols are always put in place. Make sure that you’ve carefully reflected on your decision.


Other Considerations

Being clear about your motivations to become an international aid worker is a crucial step. Many believe that the benefits outweigh the risks.

  1. Knowledge is important. You need to educate yourself about the industry. In some cases, the requirements might include a graduate degree. If you’re keen on pursuing this path, plan, and scout for an MA program that will enhance your portfolio. Remember also that international aid work is not only working in the “frontlines”, but you might also find a job for the regional office of, for example, Medecins Sans Frontier or Doctors Without Borders, where you might perform administrative or organizational duties.
  2. Volunteering as an entry point. In the short term, the initial step might be to look for volunteer work. Volunteer work may be paid although not at par with a salaried position, usually, they are not, especially if you will work for an NGO. But this is where you earn your spurs and build your resume as an international aid worker. A stint in Cambodia working with community healthcare workers, followed by volunteer work in the Philippines will count a lot when you look for that more permanent role.
  3. Work on your CV. You also need to tailor-fit your CV to suit the language of international development work. There are professional CV writers who can help you with this process.
  4. Job boards. The UN and other international organization publish announcements of jobs regularly on job boards.

Whether you become a volunteer nurse in Bangladesh or a paid health expert at the WHO in Geneva, pursuing a career as an international aid worker will be fulfilling. This list will help you get started.

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