As the World celebrated the World Humanitarian Day (WHD), Ms Chansa Kapaya, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Country Representative in Nigeria, has said that aid workers are the true heroes of humanitarian situations.
The 2020 celebration was set aside to celebrate Humanitarian Workers and had as its theme: “#RealLifeHeroes”.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Kapaya shared her 32 years experience, having left home early and spending most of her adult life away in foreign lands.
For her, it is really a heroic thing for aid workers to abandon their own lives for the service of others in need, adding that she has had to miss family events including marriages, births, and even deaths of parents.
“On a personal level, it hasn’t been easy. When I say I have been with the UNHCR for the past 32 years it means I joined the UN system in my late 20s and so leaving home for the first time, living away from my family and friends for the first time was not easy, it was difficult and it continues to be difficult.
“You are a stranger each time you move location, each time you move countries and you are away from major event in your life, marriages and births, and sometimes even death.
“I have lost both my parents while working in this career of mine. Yes the toil is there, you make a lot of sacrifice to be able to continue to do the work,” she said.
Kapaya said that the work however did come with some gratification, which according to her she derived from seeing people who were sick when they arrive the camps become happy and well again.
She noted that her major attraction in the camps were children and their welfare
“What attracts me the most especially when I go into a refugee camp or a resettlements are the children, I love to see the children at the same time it breaks my heart.
“One of the things I do is visit the schools and see how the children are faring.
“Sometimes the conditions are not so great because the available spaces in the classrooms are small. But the funny thing is when you go into these classrooms, the student stand up, they start singing and they start dancing at the same time
“I feel happy and at the same time I feel a sense of despair, a sense of sadness because I look at them and say it is really no fault of theirs.
“I sometimes compare my own son and ask how would he be in a situation like that,” she said.
She recounted the story of a displaced girl from Burundi who had her education and employment stalled because she could not prove that she had attained the O level certificate.
Kapaya said that she made contacts with the school the girl claimed to have attended and was able to get her O level certificate to her.
“You should have seen this girl’s happiness and joy when she got that certificate. Such a small thing to me but to her it was a life changing situation because with that certificate she can now pursue further education and hopefully it can open new doors for her.
“So those are some of the small thing you do, you think you are doing something small but it becomes a life changing situation for a refugee or a person of concern,” she said.
She noted that as an aid worker, one needed to have empathy and sometimes just to say little kind words just to encourage someone who might not feel so great.
She said that in spite of the situation such as insecurity and recent COVID-19 pandemic, Humanitarian workers are not deterred but always continued to render assistance.
“As humanitarian aid workers, we cannot stop, we have to do what we have to do. Yes there is the COVID-19 Pandemic which seems to have a life of its own if I can put it that way and by the looks of it, until they find a vaccine or cure, it looks like it is going to be around for a while.
“In the meantime, there are vulnerable people out there that need our help. For us, this is the time to stand in solidarity with these vulnerable people that need our desperate help.
“For UNHCR, we will stay and deliver, we will abide by the WHO AND NCDC guidelines to ensure that with regards to COVID, that our Staff protect themselves, prevent themselves from the COVID and when we are meeting with persons of concerns or delivering aid we try to also abide by the WHO/NCDC guidelines,” she said. (NAN)