South Sudan: My daily life as a relief worker

Our colleague Deborah shares a behind-the-scenes look at her daily life as a relief worker in South Sudan.

Our colleague Deborah shares a behind-the-scenes look at her daily life as a relief worker in South Sudan.

As the Project Coordinator for the Emergency Response Team (ERT) in South Sudan, I ensure the team are ready to deploy to respond to emergencies across the country within a few days of the emergency arising. We are often one of the first agencies to provide health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and non-food items assistance when humanitarian needs are identified. A big part of my job is coordinating assessments and responses with UN agencies and other NGOs to make sure beneficiaries receive assistance. I am constantly monitoring needs and coordinating our responses accordingly.

My typical day begins with coffee; that is not optional! We have team devotions and then I greet our national staff with handshakes as they arrive at the office. I attend and participate in coordination meetings at UN OCHA where we assess the needs in new locations and prioritise which ones should be responded to first. I lead internal meetings with my Project Managers as they prepare to send teams to the field. Where possible, we are doing multi-sectoral interventions. It is my responsibility to assess the security and access situations and this task is ongoing as information comes in. And there is a fair amount of administrative work involved in my day too; I sign many documents and review many reports!

When I get the opportunity to travel to the field there are many essential items I have to take with me. We are usually camping during our interventions so camping gear, including a tent, mattress, mosquito dome, and bedding, is required. I have my own camping gear that I keep packed and ready to go. When I am travelling around in the field I always have three litres of water, emergency food rations, a hat, communications equipment, a quick run bag with survival items and medications, and a mosquito dome in my day pack. We never know what might happen and we have to be prepared.

It is important to me to do some exercise at the end of the day. Living in a compound with strict security protocols means I have to get creative in how I do this. I usually run in a loop in the car park or the warehouse compound. It might sound boring but getting outside and unwinding with exercise really helps me and energizes for the work I need to do in the evenings. We have Sundays off and most people have a strict Sunday ritual. I start my day with coffee and spend a few hours in my room “hibernating”. A few of us will usually go out for burgers for lunch and we often have a group dinner in the evening that we prepare together. Sunday is always a great day to connect with family and friends back home.

I enjoy working with people with different personalities, cultures, and background. Everyone has so much to offer and we have a very diverse team here in South Sudan. I am continually motivated by my South Sudanese colleagues who work for and with their own people. Their passion and endurance is really inspiring!

Deborah Schuler is Project Coordinator within Medair’s Emergency Response Team in South Sudan