The real risks facing aid workers in the field

This morning I went to the World Food Programme office with the team who are negotiating for a blanket supplementary feeding for all children in the north-east of Kenya. This is seen as a critically important intervention, and Save the Children has been lobbying hard for it.

We had some fun and games to enter the UN compound at Kigiri in Nairobi. Security is very tight and our names weren’t initially on the list, but eventually we made it inside. The meeting was cordial and purposeful but we haven’t ironed out all the financial details. I find this frustrating, as the emergency clock is ticking, and the kids really need this help as soon as possible.

We met the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs Representative to discuss how we can expand our work in the north-east of the country in order to reach more children. Back at the office we briefly switch the discussion to Somalia and agree some additional short-term support that we can offer them. I’m itching to get to the field and see the sharp end of operations for myself.

I had dinner with a dear old friend, Benoit, with his gorgeous kids climbing all over me. I listen as he talks about his staff, who were kidnapped in both Somalia and Kenya in the last year, and his own good fortune to have cancelled going on both trips himself at the last minute. After nine months of intense and nerve-wracking negotions there has been a successful outcome all the staff were recently released. “Time stopped still” for the year, as he put it.

He told me that meeting them again for the first time was as if it had never happened like it was only yesterday that they had last seen each other. I think about the security incidents I have faced in my own career. You would not wish this on your worst enemy. A couple of them said they felt grateful that Benoit had avoided being taken alongside them because he has a wife and children, and they were single. Such extraordinary courage. Not all aid workers are as lucky.

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