Far From Home, One WFP Nutrition Officer’s Path To Making A Difference In The Field In Sudan
“For me the most frightening aspect of the job is whether we do it well enough, because other people’s lives depend on it.” -- Jo Jacobsen, Junior Professional Officer from Denmark with WFP in Sudan.
What is your job for WFP in Sudan?
I work as a Junior Professional Officer (JPO) in the nutrition unit of WFP’s regional office in Khartoum, Sudan. My assignments vary a lot but I spend a great deal of time analyzing nutrition-related data to evaluate and document the impact of our programmes. I am often in the field, primarily in Darfur. Most recently, I spent five weeks in Northern Darfur where I monitored the data collection for the yearly evaluation of one of our nutrition programmes.
What is the hardest part of the job?
The WFP operation in Sudan is very complex – partly due to the size of the country and its many population groups with different cultural backgrounds and religions; and partly due to the security situation which often complicates the work in different ways. Personally, I find that the hardest part of the job is that I don’t get to see or spend time with family and friends – but luckily Skype was invented.
What did you do before you started working for WFP?
I’ve had a great interest in development work for many years. During my studies, I had several internships in Africa and Latin America. After graduating from my master’s programme in 2009, I worked as a research assistant at the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen. There, I worked in the research unit for child and international nutrition where I was primarily involved with projects in Ethiopia.
Why did you choose to work for WFP?
I have known about WFP for many years due to my interest in development work and due to WFP being one of the biggest humanitarian actors worldwide. I became familiar with the JPO programme sponsored by the Danish foreign ministry when I was still a university student applying for foundation grants for one of my internships abroad. I thought the JPO programme would be an ideal opportunity for newly qualified graduates like me who aspired to work in development -- and I feel very privileged to have gotten this opportunity.
What has been the most touching experience during your time at WFP?
I find it very difficult to pin point what has been the most touching experience. I get to work with so many talented people with different nationalities and cultural background and that’s incredibly exciting and educational. But what made the greatest impression on me was the welcome I got from the local community. The people around me have been incredibly helpful and kind. For example, shortly after I arrived I was invited to spend Christmas with the security guard who protects the compound where I live and his family.
What has been the most frightening experience during your time at WFP?
The security situation in Sudan is very tense due to conflict – both externally with South Sudan and internally between militant rebel groups -- and the kidnapping of international aid workers. I have not experienced a situation where I felt threatened but safety is of course a part of my everyday life. One has to take the necessary precautions, especially when you are in the field. For me the most frightening aspect of the job is whether we do it well enough, because other people’s lives depend on it.
Do you have a good advice for those who wish to work in the humanitarian and development field?
I think this piece of advice goes for the humanitarian and development field as with all other professions: when you have just graduated, it all comes down to experience. Therefore, I think that the best advice to give is to get as much experience as possible. This could come through an internship like the ones I did, or through volunteer work or relevant student jobs.
Danish JPO Programme
The Government of Denmark is a sponsor of the WFP JPO Programme. Between 2005 and 2012, Denmark sponsored 15 JPOs with WFP. WFP currently has three Danish JPOs who are supporting Country Offices in Sudan, Somalia and Palestine. The JPO posts sponsored by the Government of Denmark will be posted at: http://um.dk/da/om-os/stillinger/ledige-stillinger/
Additional information on the Danish JPO Programme is also available at: http://um.dk/da/om-os/stillinger/raadgiverstillinger-finansieret-af-danida/multilaterale-raadgivere)
WFP JPO Programme Overview
The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme is a United Nations system-wide donor funded programme established in 1961 that was launched in WFP in 1985. The JPO Programme provides valuable work experience and training opportunities for young and motivated professionals who are interested in pursuing a career in international development assistance. The JPOs currently assist our Country Offices worldwide and Headquarters Divisions in carrying out WFP’s mandate in a wide range of areas such as: Food Security, Vulnerability Assessment & Mapping, Policy, School Feeding, Nutrition, Emergency Preparedness & Response, Procurement, Logistics, Monitoring & Evaluation, Reporting, Government and Private Sector Partnerships, Interagency cooperation, Finance, Internal Audit, Evaluation and Communication.
To learn more: http://www.wfp.org/about/vacancies/-junior-professional-officer-program