Humanitarian work needed in increasing crisis

by: Gretchen Mangahas



Indai Sajor presents data on human displacement during her talk on humanitarian response


Forty participants from the Philippines, Canada and other countries listened intently to UP Alumna Indai Sajor’s presentation on “How to do Humanitarian Response” on February 26 as she revealed astonishing data on the current status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. Indai shared her long and rich experience in humanitarian work as a former Programme Manager of the United Nation’s Development Program in Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, and as a human rights officer with the UN’s Peacekeeping Operations in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


The increasing demand for humanitarian work

According to Indai, humanitarian response has increased in the past 30 years because of the increasing critical threat to the lives of people around the world. These threats come from a series of events as a result of wars, conflicts and natural disasters. There is an increased number of IDPs and multiple displacements in countries which means that there are countries with IDPs that also host refugees. This is even heightened during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Indai, “The world is more in crisis now than it was before.” She shared current data showing that there are 26 million refugees worldwide, 1.4 million are in need of emergency resettlement, and 85% of refugees are hosted in developing regions or third world countries. This astounding situation calls for more humanitarian response and humanitarian work.


In the second part of her presentation, Indai described how the United Nations implement humanitarian response. She stated that humanitarian response is guided by four principles: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, and Independence. She explained that humanitarian response respects the right to life and dignity and that the response is solely on the basis of needs. She added that humanitarian response does not favor any side of a political spectrum, ethnicity, race or religion and it should not be influenced by political, economic or military objectives.



Gender in humanitarian work

“The work that we do is related to gender – it is really about power relations.” Indai underscored the importance of gender in all aspects of humanitarian work. She shared how domestic violence exists in refugee camps which is why a program on domestic violence, among other programs for women and children, are incorporated in humanitarian work.


As an example, Indai recounted one of her programs where women were given the task of managing the food tickets that are distributed to families to ensure that these are dispensed especially for the children in the family who are most in need of food. The shift of this responsibility from men to women provided an avenue for a more equitable relationship between women and men.


Not too old to do humanitarian work

When asked how she finds her courage to take on a job that is risky, Indai replied, “The people on the ground sustain me.” She added that the energy that comes with the work keeps her going. As a pathway to humanitarian response, Indai encouraged those who are interested to begin with volunteering with non-government organizations. For those who are older and bring with them expertise from various fields, she advised that they look for opportunities with international organizations for consultancies that may be short or long-term contracts. Indai ended her presentation by saying, “Let your passion to bring you to where you are.”


UPAAT Education and Awareness Committee (EAC) member, Agnes Manazan, thanked Indai for her compelling presentation at the end of the webinar. This webinar is part of a series of year-long webinars organized by the UPAAT EAC.