World Humanitarian Day – August 19, 2009
World Humanitarian Day is commemorated for the first time today on August 19th. The United Nations is honoring international humanitarian aid workers who put their lives at risk to serve people around the world in need. On this special day, IOCC is featuring the words of three field staff members as representative of all its staff who daily serve tens of thousands in 24 countries on four continents.

For more information on IOCC’s country programs, click here.
Zaza Macharashvili has worked as IOCC field project manager in Georgia since 1998. IOCC is working with the World Food Programme to distribute food to 35,000 individuals throughout Georgia.

“There were and still are dangerous incidents. Unless I am entering a village where there is an identified threat, I may not have a security escort. Once I was in the village of Tamarasheni, a few kilometers from the South Ossetian border, to oversee the arrival of commodities when shots rang out nearby. Thank God none of us were hurt. There is also the threat from unexploded ordinances that are still being discovered and disposed of today. Once during food distributions in the village of Dirbi, an organization that removes war debris detonated an unexploded ordinance in an orchard near our distribution siteā€”the explosion was deafening, and the windows almost shattered. Fortunately, I have not met any obstacles that have prevented me from doing my work. However, the unstable situation in the region – shootings, unexploded bombs, and the presence of military patrols on both sides of the border – is a constant source of worry. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to work with people. In my case, the people I work with are those who are in very difficult and often dangerous situations. I am simply here to meet their basic needs, yet the beneficiaries associate me with the aid that they are receiving.”

— Zaza Macharashvili/IOCC Georgia
Godlove Ntaw, a native of Cameroon and currently based in Toronto, Canada, is Africa Development Consultant for IOCC.

“I decided on a career in humanitarian work because of the great need that people in poor countries face, and having lived in those conditions myself [Cameroon], I couldn’t think of a better job than to try to help others help themselves. The dangers have definitely increased in sub-Saharan Africa, but they have increased in most areas where you have humanitarian workers. The dangers these days are not so much natural as man-made. Those who dominate the poor see humanitarian workers as those who are enlightening the poor and they do not want that to continue. There are other obstacles. First, acquiring the resources to do the work. Second, changing the mentality of the poor so that they can start working to help themselves rather than depending on outside help. Finally, the inability or unwillingness of those governing the poor to use the resources they have in a judicious manner.”

— Godlove Ntaw, Africa Development
George Antoun oversees IOCC’s humanitarian projects in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Georgia. He is one of the longest serving IOCC staff members and got his start working with IOCC in Georgia and Russia.

“I became a humanitarian worker almost by accident, but it didn’t take me long to realize how important and how satisfying it is when you realize the impact of what you do and you can look back and see how your contribution changed people’s lives. The dangers have definitely increased for aid workers in the Middle East as a result of frequent wars in the region and due to the on-going tension. Globalization and the spread of media have in their own way increased the need; people’s level of satisfaction and expectations for their standard of living have changed. What used to be a luxury is now a necessity.”

— George Antoun, Regional Director for the Middle East and the Caucasus/IOCC

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