World Humanitarian Day, observed every year on 19 August, is a tribute to the individuals and organizations that stand at the forefront of humanity, extending a helping hand to those in need. To understand the intricate workings of humanitarian efforts, we engaged in a conversation with dedicated humanitarian workers at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Jordan, who have amassed considerable experience in assisting migrants, host, communities, and refugees.
“This day presents a significant opportunity to illuminate the struggles faced by victims of conflict and to showcase how we, as humanitarian workers, can effectively alleviate its far-reaching impacts,” said Haifa Khalil, a National Operations Officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) who joined IOM Jordan back in 2000.
"This day also acts as a reflection on the past 23 years of my life, underscoring the significance of my job, not just as Haifa, but as being part of a larger organization," she continued as she recalls memories from her past work.
A commitment to serving those in need
Haifa’s journey with IOM Jordan paints a dynamic picture of adaptability, an unwavering commitment to reaching out to the communities most in need. Throughout this time, she has navigated through different crises that have swept across the region.
A pivotal moment in Haifa's journey is marked by the closure of a Palestinian refugee camp in Iraq in 2010, situated near the border with Syria. In addition to skillfully coordinating this complicated evacuation process between local authorities and other IOM offices, this moment holds a deeply significant place.
“When people finally reached Jordan, we were able to reunite certain families. Particularly heartwarming was the reunion of two brothers who had not seen each other for decades. It was an incredibly poignant and emotionally charged moment that will forever remain etched in my memory," Haifa conveyed with emotion.
From successfully managing emergencies such as assisting a beneficiary experiencing a cerebral vascular accident on a plane, to escorting individuals with special needs to their destination and witnessing their hopeful new beginnings, it is these very experiences that motivate Haifa Khalil to excel in her role as a dedicated humanitarian worker.
“I still have more years ahead until my retirement. My aspiration is to dedicate these years solely to serving more beneficiaries, gaining further experience to better respond to new crises, and adapting to the evolving needs of those we aim to assist,” she affirmed.
Navigating Challenges with Resilience and Determination
For Omar Twait, a Senior Project Assistant who joined IOM in 2012, it was also his desire to serve others that motivated him to enter the humanitarian sector.
“My eagerness to volunteer and make a significant impact on the lives of refugees guided me towards IOM. When I found out about their recruitment, I did not hesitate even for a moment,” he exclaimed.
Certain situations prove to be particularly challenging, as seen in the example of the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into Jordan due to the Syrian war. Within a matter of months, numerous refugee camps emerged, triggering a major operational shift, and demanding rapid response.
As Omar gazes at a map of the camp from 2018, he recalls the complexities of the initial phases of crisis-related daily operations.
“Admittedly, every day brought its own set of challenges. I remember operating under high pressure, oblivious to the hours I invested. Yet, through seamless coordination with local authorities and other UN (United Nations) agencies, we managed to establish a robust system,” he confirms.
The experience of assisting individuals in dire need, coupled with witnessing the tangible impact firsthand, bestows an indescribable sense of fulfillment elaborates Omar Towait.
“The ability to aid people who are in search of aid, coupled with the direct and immediate influence you wield in the field, is a reward like no other. This is what propels me to persist in my work,” he passionately adds.
Safeguarding the Health of Migrants
Just a short stroll away from the IOM main office in Amman, the Migration Health Department stands as another dedicated department, wholeheartedly focused on the health assessment prior to the resettlement of refugees and migrants as well as provision of essential travel health support.
Every single day, an unwavering team of migration health physicians and nurses work diligently to assess, examine, and provide care for the migrants and refugees.
In the midst of these professionals stands Rasha Shoumar, a Migration Health Physician whose journey led her to become an integral part of the IOM in 2015. It was during the throes of the Syrian war, precisely at the zenith of the crisis, that Rasha dedicated herself to providing health services to migrants and refugees.
“At the core of being a physician resides an authentic empathy for humanity and an unyielding desire to extend aid to individuals in need. Reflecting on my time in medical school, I vividly recollect nurturing an aspiration to bring about substantial positive change,”
“The decision to join the IOM has not only fulfilled that aspiration but also provided me with the privilege to extend assistance to those often overlooked and marginalized,”
Rasha underscores the profound impact even the smallest gestures can have on those they aid—sometimes, the simplest actions like giving a toy to a child can yield immeasurable results. She warmly recalls a specific instance when the mere act of offering a teddy bear brought boundless joy to a young girl she was diligently monitoring for anemic conditions.
“On a subsequent visit, the girl's mother approached me and shared that her daughter had formed a special bond with the teddy bear, endearingly calling it Dr. Rasha,” she shared.
“In the sphere of humanitarian work, the sense of reward and fulfillment from catalyzing positive change in others' lives is immediate. In the realm of alleviating suffering and evoking smiles, there is truly nothing more deeply fulfilling," she concluded.
From Haifa's relentless pursuit of making a positive change, to Omar's journey marked by adaptability, and Rasha's unwavering commitment to the health and wellbeing of migrants and refugees, each narrative is a powerful testimonial to the unwavering commitment of humanitarian workers.
As the World Humanitarian Day serves as a global tribute to the remarkable efforts of those who stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable, their stories illustrate the profound impact that compassion, dedication, and selflessness can have on individuals and communities facing adversity. Once again IOM calls for the protection, well-being and dignity of all people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of the aid workers who support them.