Extinction of Relief Workers and our Identity

Natural disasters, war-torn countries are hot spots. These occurrence brings about the worse in humanity. Institutions cease to function, for a time, and mayhem strikes into the hidden core of vulnerability. Society panics as they see their quality of life drops, miserably and in agony.

Outrage, confusion and disorder comes into existence, violently slapping the face of every adult and child, waking them from their slumber into the reality, the fury.

It is still interesting to see that humanitarian relief and recovery work is still alive in many parts of the world. Relief workers are in high demand, though society often does not understand what we do - especially in Malaysia.

The recent expedition of relief workers into the flooded-areas of South East Asia; we saw, and still see, countries sinking under the waves of the floods, battered by wild storms. Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines had little chance to fight or resist the onslaught of the elements.

Lives were affected, people died from drowning, electrocution and diseases, and indirectly from suicide. People were depressed, saddened by the loss of their loved ones, their income, their land and homes.

Yet despite it all and the urgency, relief workers are still given less priority within the region, despite their usefulness in helping communities. We come into existence for the purpose of giving aid, to coordinate rescue and to help NGOs and Governments with recovery work. Do we, relief workers, ask for the world in payment? No.

However my profession seems to be a dying one. Governments and NGOs would call upon our services, what is often a knee-jerk reaction, when everything has spiraled into chaos. But by then, lives are lost by the hundreds, and homes destroyed by a wall of mud, or swallowed by a raging tide.

I'm an independent relief worker in Malaysia, it is challenging to find jobs despite the presence of international and local aid agencies in the country. I am disappointed with the bureaucracy, politicking and the expectations of degree-based applicants into their workforce. Merely being a volunteer to these agencies doesn't put food on the table, nor does it, in any way, fairly compensate my experience. High unemployment, and poverty, for individuals with such skills.

NGOs and Government agencies have failed to nurture new talents, to put the impact of the natural disasters and calamity into working achievable models. This is despite the years of submitting reports and conducting rapid needs assessments - making appeals to bureaucrats who doesn't understand the importance of humanitarian work.

Everyone seems to be more keen to participate in international conferences in sharing best practices, a paid holiday overseas in some five-star luxury hotel. I feel a sense of rot within the system of relief and recovery work. At best, I can only hope that individual sponsors would take at heart of another disaster, and provide the resources for relief workers to provide aid.

My thoughts, and in my forced isolation, hopefully brings about some basic understanding of the challenges that relief workers face. It is, indeed, disheartening.

Photos of the Thailand Floods:



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