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In The Mountains Of Nepal, Anette from Norway Becomes The Humanitarian She Knew She Could Be

Norwegian Junior Professional Officer Anette Willhelmsen had lived and worked in challenging environments before beginning her career with WFP but she’d never experienced anything quite like her demanding post in Nepal. Poor roads and weather conditions mean sometimes her team has to walk for days to reach the people they’re trying to help. Stepping up to do whatever it takes to help WFP get the job done, it’s the pace and the challenge of her work that’s given her new skills and perspective about what exactly it means to be a humanitarian.

What do you do for WFP in Nepal?
I work as a Junior Professional Officer (JPO) for WFP’s country office in Nepal. I started out here in programme monitoring and evaluation but now I am involved in many different elements of WFP’s work. Most recently, I’ve become responsible for communications and through that coordinating what is called the pipeline unit, which keeps track of WFP’s resources like food and cash.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
One of the main challenges is how truly difficult it is to reach the field because of weather conditions and poor infrastructure. During the rainy season, for example, the rivers get so high that roads become washed away or blocked by landslides. Travelling by air can also be very dangerous and flights are often cancelled due to bad weather. Sometimes we need to walk for several days to reach the beneficiaries. All of this means that preparation is critical to our success. We need to plan ahead and account for extra time we might need to reach our destination; we need to prepare ourselves for the many possible scenarios we might face before going to the field.

Annette distributing food to a young boy

Why did you choose to work for WFP?
I have always been interested in working for one of the United Nations’ humanitarian agencies. It was a natural fit for me to apply for a position at WFP since I had a lot of experience in the area of food security, love Nepal, and already spoke a bit of the language. I was lucky they had a position available here.

What has made the biggest impression on you during your time as a JPO for WFP?
The challenging geography, with mountain ranges and rivers, has made me realize how hard it is for people living in remote areas of Nepal to access the food market. For many, it can take several days by foot or insecure roads to reach the market. In addition to this lack of access, the people are not able to produce food for more than 3-6 months of the year. The combination of poor food production and infrastructure makes people food insecure and very vulnerable when natural disasters like drought, flood, or earthquake happen. If they lose one harvest, they don’t have anything left.

What has been your most moving experience at WFP so far?
Many things have made a big impression on me while working for WFP. One instance was when I visited the Bhutanese refugee camps in East Nepal, where the refugees are completely dependent on the food provided by WFP as they are not permitted to work  outside of the camps. Most of them have been living in these camps for more than 20 years, receiving the same food ration every day.

What are your tips for those who wish to pursue a career in the humanitarian field?
1. Volunteer and pursue real world experiences in development while you are studying.
2. Learn something practical like web editing, Photoshop, publishing and media tools.
3. Gain critical international experience through studying abroad or internships.

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:
Norwegian JPO Programme
The Government of Norway is a sponsor of the WFP JPO Programme. Between 2006 and 2013, Norway sponsored 18 JPOs with WFP. WFP currently has four Norwegian JPOs who are supporting Country Offices in Sudan, Somalia, Nepal and WFP Headquarters in Rome. Four new JPOs will join WFP in the next few weeks to support our Country Offices in Burkina Faso, Niger, Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. Additional information on the Norwegian JPO Programme is also available at:

About Anette Wilhelmsen
Anette has a BA in Contemporary History and a MA in History from the University of Oslo. She worked for three years for the Development Fund Norway (Utviklingsfondet) and also participated  in a Peace Corps exchange in Nepal through the Development Fund, working for the Nepali NGO LIBIRD.