World Humanitarian Day: Voices of Aid Workers (Part 2)

On World Humanitarian Day, we celebrate and honor aid workers around the world, who continue to provide lifesaving services in the midst of COVID-19. Below, Action Against Hunger staff from Somalia to Colombia reflect on the last six months and share their hardest moments – and their most rewarding ones.

Read more from our Voices of Humanitarians series: hear from Community Health Workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, check out a first-hand account from an aid worker in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, and read from humanitarian workers as they share how their work has changed with COVID-19.

América Arias, Director of Programs, Peru

The hardest moments have been with colleagues, who saw their families who were far away infected by COVID-19, and they did not have any way to help.

I have heard of other organizations who felt lost, without tools, or worse, without support. Knowing that our team in Peru has not stopped working, and that, all along, we have had a team behind us to consult - even if they did not always have the answer - has made us feel less alone.

Ndery Gueye, Project Manager, Mauritania

The most difficult moments were at the beginning of the pandemic, when I had just taken on a new project manager position. I had to meet with authorities for updates and information, but it was not possible because they were not even in the offices.

The most rewarding moment remains the day when I felt that the fear had disappeared – for me, for our partners, and the people we serve – and saw that everyone was ready to respect virus containment measures and continue our work.

Javier Yesid Velandia Leal Action Against Hunger's Logistics Coordinator in Colombia.

Photo: Action Against Hunger

Javier Yesid Velandia Leal, Logistics Coordinator, Colombia

The hardest moment was when I got on a plane to the Amazon, where cases of COVID-19 were increasing at great speed. It’s an area of the country that I did not know, with a team that I did not know and, with a small risk of being infected, leaving my family behind. 

My mission to the Amazon was the hardest moment, but at the same time, the most rewarding. Coming back, I knew that I contributed a grain of sand to my colleagues and the community to mitigate the spread of the pandemic was the most gratifying feeling for me.

Dr. Mustaf Yusuf, Medical Doctor, Somalia

There was a lot of false information about COVID-19 going around, and most people didn’t believe that the coronavirus actually exists. It was hard watching people not practice social distancing or take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Through community health workers at both facility and community level, we worked hand-in-hand with the community to spread messages on COVID-19, including ways to protect oneself from contracting the virus and to address the stereotypes and misinformation about the virus.

What gave me hope was seeing the people we serve reaching out to our health center staff for information on COVID-19. This was really encouraging for me because it showed that members of the community were concerned and willing to take the necessary measures to protect themselves and their families.

Dr. Mustaf Yusuf at one of the health centers supported by Action Against Hunger in Somalia.

Photo: Fardosa Hussein
for Action Against Hunger,

Luis Fernando Ramirez, Eastern Region Coordinator, Colombia

The hardest moments have been witnessing the hunger of the families that we support. There are families who, not being able to go out, spent several days without eating or who broke restrictions to get food. There are so many of them.

The most rewarding moment was during a food delivery. We gave a migrant family a food kit. One of the children came up to me and said: "Thank you very much, now we can eat without having to go out and die." Those words broke my heart, but it helped us see that once again that we are doing the right thing. We can indeed be the generation to end hunger and face the crises to come.

Asa Lelei, Health Systems Project Manager, Kenya

The hardest thing has been the stigma and fear of facility-based health services, coupled with the shift in focus from providing essential health services to responding to COVID-19.  This has seen drastic reduction in healthcare attendance and uptake of healthcare services. The additional cost for PPEs and stringent government directives has made implementation of activities difficult and costly. 

The most rewarding thing has been recognition of Action Against Hunger’s contributions to sustaining essential health services in West Pokot County even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jessica Coronado, Nutrition and Health Coordinator, Guatemala

The hardest moment for all of us, not just for me, was having to adapt our ways of working in the face of the pandemic, as well as the changes we had to make in our personal lives, because everything turned into confinement, teleworking, virtual classes, and losing person-to-person contact.

There have been many gratifying moments during this pandemic because I feel that I am contributing to all our teams feeling a little more secure, providing them with reliable information through trainings, and hearing them say that it is very useful for them. That has made me feel good. The most rewarding thing is knowing that our teams in the field are back to serving the people who need us, seeing happy faces because someone is reaching them with help.

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocate for change, and reach 25 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.