Travels with the UN – Liberia (2012-13) and Sudan (2014)

A change of scene and an opportunity to gain a broader perspective of the United Nations (including of its volunteers): I served as a UN Volunteer first with the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, then with UNDP in Khartoum, Sudan.

Visiting children who have been sexually abused
Visiting children in Liberia who have been sexually abused
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UNMIL peacekeepers

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UNDP Sudan
Breakfast @ Ozone, one of the best cafe restaurants in Khartoum. The capital city itself is a bit of a bubble, with conflict in Darfur and other areas.
Breakfast @ Ozone, one of the best cafe restaurants in Khartoum. The capital city itself is a bit of a bubble, with ongoing conflict in Darfur and other areas of Sudan.

Travels with the UN – Bangladesh (2011-12)

Dry, hot city. Wafts of diesel and food combined hang heavy in the air. Cars, motorbikes, rickshaws pile noisily back to back in densely congested roads. Street hawkers weave expertly through traffics of people and vehicles, whilst children scurry among the crowds, clutching goods for sale instead of school satchels. Welcome to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Back with UNICEF for six months, this time in Dhaka. Lots of writing, lots of getting out to meet partners from international and local NGOs (such as the impressive BRAC), as well as talking to Bangladeshis inside their homes and work places about their lives and experiences with UNICEF supported projects.

25-year-old Sapan Miah teaches villagers about pneumonia and other health matters. Parathia, South Sunamganj, Bangladesh
25-year-old Sapan Miah teaches villagers about pneumonia and other health matters. Parathia, South Sunamganj, Bangladesh

I also spent a chunk of time visiting schools, including one where I had to give an impromptu ‘inspirational’ speech to the children at their prize-giving ceremony. They were very gracious – I felt like a UNICEF Representative for all of my two hour visit there!

I also got to work with a strong, hardworking and fun communications team at UNICEF Bangladesh. Click here for one of the newsletters we produced.

For more info about UNICEF Bangladesh see here

Travels with the UN – Niger (2010)

 

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Tuareg pastoralists 

There was a serious food crisis unfolding in Niger and other parts of the Sahel at the time of my appointment to the UNICEF office in Niamey. I was charged with leading a media mission into Maradi and Zinder, two hard hit areas, with Terry Ally, a colleague from the UNICEF UK national committee, as well as a top photographer from Getty Images.

 

The photographer, Marco di Lauro, had already documented many, many scenes from war zones such as Afghanistan, We would be accompanied by a fourteen men convoy, as al-Qaeda was also a threat in the area at the time. I would be the only woman on the team.

Marco is pictured with two of the security men. He would eventually go on to win first prize in his category at the prestigious World Press Awards. But more importantly, we contributed to raising the profile of a region in serious distress.

Unfortunately, food crisis and famines are recurring problems in a country and region that suffers from recurring droughts. According to the United Nations and the European Commission’s humanitarian arm, ECHO, 20 million people were food insecure in the Sahel during 2014, with 1 in 8 inhabitants suffering from food insecurity. Children in the Sahel are among the world’s most malnourished. Affected countries include those in conflict, such as Mali and the Central African Republic.

Communities have learned to be resourceful and, together with their governments and international/local organisations, continue to look at ways to adapt to and mitigate historical environmental challenges and the hazards of climate change.

Pastoralists, including the two Tuareg men pictured here, were struggling with the upkeep of their families. The devastation of their livelihoods was immediately apparent: cattle lay dead and dying under the searing heat, whilst food prices continued to rise and rise.

Click here for an ECHO factsheet about the Sahel crisis

Go here for Marco’s work