What makes aid workers tick: "I know what it means to be hungry"

Oxfam staffers measure food for South Sudan's Martha Nyandit who was forced to flee her home with her children when fighting broke out. Photo: Pablo Tasco/Oxfam
Oxfam staffers measure food for South Sudan's Martha Nyandit who was forced to flee her home with her children when fighting broke out. Photo: Pablo Tasco/Oxfam

Blog contribution by Coco McCabe 

World Humanitarian Day honors the aid workers who are helping millions of people weather unimaginable crises.

Today marks World Humanitarian Day—a time designated by the UN to recognize the many people on our planet who set aside their own comforts and concerns to help countless others whose lives have been turned upside down by conflict or natural disaster.

The number of those in need is astronomical: the UN is estimating that a record 130 million people will require humanitarian assistance this year.  They"ll need food and shelter, clean water and medical assistance. They"ll need help finding a way to support their families and rebuilding all that they have lost in the calamities that have torn their communities apart.

And standing with them are aid workers from every walk of life. Some have experienced profound hardship themselves; others can only imagine what it's like to endure hunger and loss. But one thing they have in common is empathy.

At Oxfam, that's coupled with an abiding belief in the power of people to help themselves. In the last year, we have supported more than 8 million people in crisis. How? In part through the dedication of humanitarian workers like Jihad and Ahmad who are helping refugees from Syria, like Theodros and Namaru in South Sudan, and like Hind and Nuha in Yemen.

In their own words, here is what motivates some of them. To protect their security, we have withheld the last names of some of these workers:

"I am a humanitarian because I believe there is still hope for South Sudan. I have the chance to work with communities to discuss issues that we"re facing and how to rise above them. I believe that the only way to overcome the challenges we face is to listen to each other and to work together. We have to take the journey to a better future together. The answers are all with us." 
- Namaru Florence, an emergency food security and livelihoods officer in South Sudan.

"I know what it means to be hungry! I know the weakness and desperation you feel when you are hungry. I studied agriculture, crop and livestock production, to support my fellow brothers and sisters to produce food on their own and be self-sufficient. I feel contented in my heart when I see farmers at the field harvesting their crops, enjoying the fruits after months of cultivation, or people milking cows they have been caring for for over many months or even an entire life time."
- Theodros Eshetu Tefera, an Ethiopian food security coordinator in South Sudan.

"I discovered that working for an international NGO (nongovernmental organization) is not like having a regular job. It is a commitment. There are more than 10,000 people in the district where I work who need water on a daily basis. Refugees repeated that humanitarian workers make life in a camp easier for them, not only for the aid they provide, but also for the moral support."
- Ahmad, based in Zataari refugee camp in Jordan.

"I think about all the women I met that day. I recall their enthusiasm as they suddenly realized they can exert some degree of control over their lives, and they can contribute to the planning of bright futures for themselves, their children, families and communities. But this war has stopped everything. … Lives are torn apart by this war and it is unraveling decades of development work in Yemen.  Typically, women and their rights will be the hardest hit."
- Nuha, who works for Oxfam in Yemen.