My Job Fighting Hunger In The Middle East (Staff Interview)
Haya Abassi is a native of Palestine. Since joining WFP, she’s worked across the Middle East from Libya and Tunisia to Jordan. Her role has put her on the front lines of more than one humanitarian emergency in the region. Today, she manages a food and voucher programme for refugees from Syria.
1) What is your job?
I’m a Programme Officer. I run the cash and voucher unit in Jordan. In a nutshell, it’s my job to set up a system where we give a coupon to each Syrian refugee family. They can use these vouchers in shops, exchanging them for food items to feed their families.
2) What is the hardest thing about your job?
The voucher assistance project is relatively new. It is therefore difficult to find people who are familiar with this form of assistance. As a result, I find that I have to supervise my staff more closely than the average manager does. My biggest challenge is therefore time management.
3) What did you do before joining WFP?
I did my Masters in Poverty and Development in Manchester, UK. Before joining WFP, I worked with around 10 different organizations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). I started doing field work whilst I was at university in Jerusalem, conducting research and carrying out data collection.
4) How did you find your way into WFP?
After I finished my contract with FAO, I took a post with WFP and have been with them ever since. Over the years, I’ve worked with WFP in Palestine, Tunisia, Libya and now here in Jordan.
5) What do you like about your job?
When I first started the voucher programme, the number of refugees fleeing to Jordan was growing rapidly. We needed to get the ball rolling as fast as possible to be able to assist them. After finishing an assessment mission a few months ago, we received direct feedback from the people we had helped. It was very positive. It was so satisfying. Hearing that families were able to feed themselves, I felt like I really succeeded at my job.
6) What’s your most frightening experience?
I will never forget this incident. When I was working in Libya, I travelled to the city of Beni Walid. During a meeting with the representatives from the local community, we were suddenly shot at from outside! The shooters were upset because they felt that the humanitarian community was too late in delivering assistance. Our assistance had been delayed due to violent clashes stopping us from entering. The minute we were granted access, we started distributing assistance.
7) What is a humanitarian?
To be a humanitarian you should come to the field. You need to be familiar with people who need assistance. A humanitarian needs to be in contact with people in need to truly understand their needs. If you don’t understand the people you assist, you will never be successful.
8) Are you one?
Yes, I am for sure. Working in the field makes me feel that I am 100% a humanitarian.