Salatha checks a truck full of lifesaving nutrition treatment before it heads out to the field.

Celebrating Women Humanitarians: Meet Salatha

Around the world, Action Against Hunger aid workers – many of whom are women – bring compassion, dedication, and expertise to saving lives. Below is an interview with Salatha Sirat, who has been an Action Against Hunger logistics assistant in southwestern Somalia for two years. A passionate mover and shaker, she champions diversity and equality in the workplace.

Where are you from?

I was born in Mogadishu during the civil war. My parents had to make a swift decision to move us to Mandera, in northeastern Kenya. That’s where I spent most of my childhood, and where I had the opportunity to go school and study. My father values education and wanted all of his children to attend school and return to Somalia to serve the nation. 

How was life growing up?

My siblings (five sisters and three brothers) and I grew up in Mandera and, I must say, I love how simple life is in the rural areas. I love being a nomad; it’s part of our lifestyle to move from one place to another in search of greener pastures. We used to drink a lot of goat and camel milk and sometimes go out in the fields with a herd for the day. I used to help my mother at her shop on weekends and go to school and Madrassa on weekdays.

How did you find out about Action Against Hunger?

I was visiting my relatives in 2015 and saw an advertisement for a community mobilizer. I applied for it and the rest is history.

What motivated you to apply for the logistics assistant position?

After working for a year, I realized I was passionate about supply chains and took short courses on stock management and supply chain. In 2017, a logistics assistant position opened, and I got the job.

The one thing that motivated me since then is the fact that some of my colleagues thought that stock management was a difficult job for a woman to handle. For me, it has been seamless joy working in this department because I enjoy my work and I serve the community.

Salatha in a storage room at Action Against Hunger's base in El barde.

Photo: Fardosa Hussein
for Action Against Hunger,
Somalia

What type of challenges do you face in the field?

I work in a predominantly male workspace, and I worry that the decisions made are too often from just one perspective. Recently, we have made progress: more women have been hired as community health and hygiene promoters in our outreach programs, which were previously dominated by men. We have heard positive feedback in the community about how women health workers regularly visit mothers in their homes to check on their children’s nutrition and health. This is important because women in the community are more comfortable communicating with female health workers, and more lives are saved in the process.

Every day presents a new challenge. During one of last year’s rainy seasons, one of the trucks with supplies of Plumpy’Nut [a high-calorie, nutrient-rich therapeutic food used to treat malnourished children] was stuck in the mud three miles from our base. As a last resort, we hired men to carry the supplies from the truck into town.

You can imagine how much time it takes to offload and carry 200 boxes of Plumpy’Nut for this distance – it took about five hours to get all the supplies to our center. I had to do everything I could to get them there, because the next day was a distribution day. Mothers travel as far as 25 miles to get to our outreach site.

What do you find most rewarding in your work?

When the nutrition supplies – such as Plumpy’Nut – get to the communities we serve. I think about the mothers who travel for miles to get these lifesaving supplies for their children. We cover a wide area, and we are the only international organization on the ground offering these lifesaving services. I do it for them – it is incredible to see what I do make a difference.

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.