HHR Africa Conference 2012

Health, Safety and Security of Aid Workers - An Integrated Approach

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"As we spend the next few days contemplating on the complexity of our work within an ever changing operational context, let us reflect not only on our accomplishments but also on the ways in which we as organisations and individuals can improve our working environment; always ensuring that the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff is the number one consideration in everything we do.

Let us dedicate this conference to humanitarians across the world who every day strive to better the situations that arise out disaster, conflict and poverty. And let us also remember and dedicate this conference to those humanitarians who are no longer with us today, whose contributions to humanitarian work will be greatly remembered."

Paula Tenaglia, ACF

Conference report

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Presentations

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Video blog

  • Health, safety and security are the responsibilities of both the organisation and individual. Organisations must create effective policies on staff care, and communicate these to staff clearly and routinely.
  • At the same time, staff must have the courage to speak up, or approach senior staff in the organisation if something is troubling them.
  • Staff care is most effective when the organisation, and the staff it cares for, are working in tandem and sharing responsibility for workplace wellbeing.

Video blog

Slides

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  • Health encompasses many things; it represents the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of an individual. If one or more of these elements is missing, it can affect the overall performance of the organisation, therefore it is extremely important for organisations to focus on this.
  • Ensuring mental wellbeing of staff is relatively inexpensive. Counselling can deal with a wide range of mental and emotional issues.
  • If this is not addressed, the resulting ill health of the staff will end up costing the organisation the same, in terms of medical schemes and staff absences.

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Extra Resources

Resilience Action Plan
  • In a context rife with complexity and urgency, it is easy for aid workers to feel stress and anxiety affecting their health. This constant stress often lead to fatigue and burnout. 
  • Organisations must learn not to conduct "avoidant" staff care, including aspects such as inadequate and harmful debriefing, vague policies and procedures, and splits between HR, security and operations. Instead, the "contained" organisation will have sound training and briefing, robust pshyco-social support and refferal networks as well as open communication about work-related feelings and difficulties. 
  • Positive coping strategies involve awareness, balance and connection. Counselling can also be a big help in these situations. 

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  • There is a thin line between building stress and building resilience. Many factors feed into each process – the source of the stress, resources and coping mechanisms as well as the personality of the individual themselves.
  • On top of this, we need to look at the distinction between “good pressure” and “bad stress”. The more pressure is put on an individual, the higher their efficiency – but only up until a certain point. After this point, “bad stress” takes over, and efficiency wanes. When taken too far, this can quickly develop into more serious conditions such as burnout.
  • Resilience on the other hand, represents recovery, adaptability and sustainability. To build this, the individual aid worker must be motivated, have sufficient support systems in place as well as effective coping mechanisms and access to organisational staff care policies.

Video Blog

Slides

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Extra Resources

Security Briefing Document - Sample from June

Notes

  • With critical humanitarian incidents on the rise, it is vital that aid organisations take a fresh look at the role HR can play in these situations with regards to staff care. HR is the lifeblood of an organisation – it can zone in on areas in staff care that, many times, are overlooked by security practitioners and experts.
  • Individuals working for the organisation must then be able to contribute to contingency planning and to policies relating to staff wellbeing.

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  • Bullying is repetitive, escalates, and happens over a period of time. This can affect the victim negatively, and hence slow down the productivity of the organisation. Bullying is different from a one off comment or remark, for the reasons above.
  • In humanitarian organisations, bullying often occurs when some individuals are less willing to take risks than others, and are henceforth victimised for their caution. The culture of the beneficiaries needs being bigger than the staff needs also contributes. We do need to recognise that staff may have issues of their own and that they need to dedicate as much time to this as to the lives of the beneficiaries they serve.

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To achieve effective staff care in an organisation, one must ask themselves several key questions. How does one measure effective staff care? What does it take for an organisation to be effective in it’s treatment of staff? Who is accountable for an individuals actions?

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A large part of putting staff first involves them having round the clock support. A 24/7 contact centre can help achieve this and allow a quick distribution of treatment. Use of innovative risk management programmes can also promote a sense of cost awareness.

Video

  • Be free of Toxins, including prescription drugs. If you always need to take something, think about what can be causing it - is it your food/water intake?
  • Keep Hydrated.
  • Regular Exercise - if you can't make time for exercise, be ready to make time for illness.
  • Eat healthy - and watch your portions. Flat not heaped!
  • Rest well at night and avoid eating protein in the evening.

 

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Video

  • 1. Leadership has nothing to do with position. This is what most think is leadership, and spend a lot of energy seeking it.
  • If you are a team leader, or supervisor, ask yourself this: If I did not have this position, would this people still trust me to lead them? Ask that question about your influence across the organization, and you have a pretty clear picture of where you stand.
  • This level becomes less effective the higher the level of staff, DOES NOT WORK with volunteers, and younger adults.
  • 2. Leadership has very little to do with genetics. Natural charisma makes for very good first impressions, but substance is needed for the long haul.
  • Talkativeness demonstrates you can be a spokesperson for the group, but is not enough to build trust.
  • Some just exude that air of confidence and strength that is just so attractive...but its not enough to effect positive change.
  • 3. Leadership is not magic. Supernatural manipulations are just that, manipulations that ride on superstition and fear.
  • 4. Leadership is not being popular or famous. The Kenyan political arena is choke-full of examples of this fact.
  • 5. Leadership is not for some people, it's for everyone!

 

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