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close this bookMeeting the Humanitarian Challenge - UNV's Work Between Conflict and Development (United Nations Volunteers, 44 p.)
close this folderUNV humanitarian action in the field: Effort and impact
View the documentThe link to development: UNDP's strategic role
View the documentSupporting field coordination of response to complex emergencies
View the documentIdentifying the neediest and their survival strategies
View the documentRe-focusing and fine-tuning relief efforts
View the documentDelivery of urgent relief supplies to emergency victims
View the documentShelter and services for refugees and displacees
View the documentRepatriation/return of refugees and displacees
View the documentMonitoring and promoting respect for human rights, and enabling protection
View the documentConfidence- and capacity-building at community level
View the documentPreventing conflict and mending bridges between communities
View the documentFocusing on the special needs of women and vulnerable groups
View the documentEducation as therapy and for employment
View the documentRestoring food self-sufficiency
View the documentRebuilding primary health care and preventing epidemics
View the documentDeveloping new opportunities for sustainable recovery

Supporting field coordination of response to complex emergencies

UNV specialists have become increasingly involved in supporting the roles of UN Resident Coordinators, especially in relation to UN Disaster Management Teams in times of crisis. UNV specialists in a number of countries have been or are playing such roles: the UNDP Emergency Relief Unit in Kenya is staffed by UNVs, including the Relief Coordinator; the Drought Emergency Coordinator in Lesotho is a UNV; a UNV has helped UNDP/Zimbabwe in synthesising drought information for the sub-region; UNVs for many years supported the UN Emergency Preparedness and Planning Group (EPPG) in Ethiopia and are presently supporting emergency coordination in Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia and the Sudan.

To take one example, the refugee influx at the height of the 1992 Somali famine and civil war, along with a serious drought and Kenya's own internal strife at the time, combined to put tremendous strain on the Government and on UNDP. To support the UN Disaster Management Team (DMT), a retired executive who had worked before on the Hong Kong Refugee Board, Don Ferguson (UK), became UNV Emergency Relief Coordinator, set up the Emergency Relief Unit and played a key role facilitating the coordination of relief and rehabilitation activities for drought recovery and for Somali and Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people in Kenya. Since then, a team of UNVs has joined the unit to conduct field needs assessment missions, report back to the DMT, and facilitate timely intervention and donor support for effective relief and recovery assistance.

Rwandan refugees awaiting shelter

Presently, there are 24 UNV Specialists involved in a wide range of Humanitarian activities in support of the care and maintenance of Somali and Ethiopian Refugees in different parts of Kenya. UNVs located in towns along the Kenya/Somali border where there is still a sizeable concentration of refugees, are serving as specialists in food logistics and monitoring, in vehicle maintenance for convoys involved in cross border operations and as sociologists working closely with the refugees themselves. In Nairobi UNV specialists utilise their professional skills in accounting, computer engineering and administration in support of the humanitarian work being undertaken in the field.

Today, some 35 UNVs are also active in Liberia, running provincial humanitarian operational centres, supervising camps under the guidance of UNOMIL, providing support and assistance to the National Aids Programme, undertaking peace-building activities and also working in the medical field as nurses and dispensary doctors. Similar roles are being played in Burundi, where 22 UNV specialists are actively involved in providing emergency assistance to refugees from Rwanda, UNV specialists are also undertaking primary roles in peacekeeping and human rights operations in Bosnia and Mozambique, and are working closely with UN Agencies in many other parts of the world, for example with WFP in Somalia and Kenya, with UNICEF in western Ivory Coast, and with IOM in Mozambique. In recent years, UNV specialists have also served in the WHO Pan African Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, based in Addis Ababa.

Following the Security Council's decision in 1993 to strengthen UNOSOM II, a major new programme was approved and to date some 33 UNV specialists have served specifically under UNOSOM in Somalia. Presently there are 59 UNV specialists working on a wide range of projects in Somalia with UNICEF, WHO, and UNOSOM II in places such as Mogadishu, Berbera and Hoddur,

A Sudanese veterinarian, working as a UNV Specialist with FAO in Somaliland, recently completed his three month assignment. He was primarily involved in the implementation of five main FAO projects; the establishment of meat markets in Hargeisa, Boroma and Berbera which are adjacent to the reactivated abattoirs, and the establishment of fourteen veterinary associations for nomadic health auxiliaries who will act as a link between the associations and the nomadic communities. The UNV specialist also ensured that these associations were provided with a large stock of Brucella Antigen and equipment for the testing of animals for brucellosis prior to exportation, Additionally, the veterinarian was involved in two smaller FAO projects aimed at re-establishing community self-sufficiency.

The first project involved the provision of fishing equipment to the fishermen and surrounding communities in Berbera. The second involved the provision of 200 ploughs and 400 oxen to 200 families in Boroma and immediate surrounding areas. The UN volunteer's work played an important role in the overall FAO programme, aimed at restoring self sufficiency within local communities.

UNV nurse and journalist Vanya Kewley inventories the situation in a Rwanda refugee camp

The role of UNVs as Information Specialists in emergency and disaster situations is also significant. In 1994, an Irish journalist, James Lowrey, carried out a six -month assignment as a UNV Information Officer in Monrovia. Working under the direct supervision of the UNDP Resident Representative in Liberia, he was primarily responsible for producing and disseminating the UNDP public information programme in Liberia, concerning emergency activities relating to the conflict in the country. Developing and implementing information strategies and campaigns in support of both short- and longer- term UN objectives, presented an enjoyable challenge to his communication skills.

In Zimbabwe, another Irish-funded UNV Specialist, Bernadette Murphy, undertook a one year assignment as a UNV Information and Liaison Officer in Harare. She was responsible for the coordination of information regarding all drought emergency-related activities carried out by the UNDP Field Office, concerning the Southern African Region. Essentially this meant maintaining an effective network with organisations involved in the drought relief effort, UN Agencies, donors and NGOs, compiling drought-related statistics regarding data on the number of people affected by drought, water shortages, the impact on livestock survival, and, in addition, assessing needs and financial implications. She also processed, analysed and consolidated information which was used in the publication of various reports for distribution to UN donors and NGOs.

Several UNV Specialists have also served as radio operators in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, the highly qualified UNV radio operators function on a rotating basis, where they have to live both day and night, on and off the job, in the PTT building and sometimes in the same room as where their colleagues are working. Normally, the radio operators function on a four weeks 'on' and four weeks 'off basis, due to the intense pressure of their work. This also helps to prevent the all too common ' burn-out' syndrome experienced by those working in war-zones.