Sushila Desai is a financial analyst/project manager and has worked in Iraq and Ethiopia
At first I thought that Médecins Sans Frontières only recruited those who had medical qualifications, but when I visited their website I realised that they were also recruiting people with a financial and administrative background. As I've worked in both financial and project management roles I thought my experience could be useful and I decided to apply. After a successful recruitment process and some pre-departure training, I've since undertaken placements in the Kurdistan region in northen Iraq and in Dilla in Ethiopia's south. Both had their own individual challenges. In the Kurdistan area (where we provided care for burns patients) there was a relative lack of freedom of general movement due to security precautions. It took a while to get used to these restrictions. As the Field Administrator, I was managing a large budget and over 320 staff which posed another set of challenges, mainly relating to language difficulties.
In Ethiopia, we were involved in an emergency nutrition intervention. My role was actually to help wind the project back once the nutrition situation for the local population improved. This role was new to me and came with significant challenges, particularly in the area of HR, however I received great support from the Coordination team in the capital city. Additionally, the grinding poverty in the southern region where I was based was quite confronting. It was frustrating to realise that we as a human race haven't been able to fix these shocking conditions despite it being the 21st century. It makes one appreciate the amazing quality of life back in Australia. Without a doubt, it was the local people that made my overall field experiences so enriching and rewarding. I learned a lot. Despite the very real hardships, the people are incredibly welcoming, warn, kind and generous with a willingness to learn and share. I met some great people and made many good friends. I would absolutely consider going on another field placement.