The IRC launched its Internal Emergency Roster this spring; a team of knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced people selected from IRC country programmes around the world. The roster members are available on 72 hours notice to bolster the emergency response team and country programmes in an emergency, allowing for the rapid deployment of skilled staff to emergency responses.
We currently have approximately 30 Roster members, with several deployed around the world in support of ongoing emergency responses.
Rachel Unkovic was the first member of the new Internal Emergency Roster to be deployed. She has just completed a six week deployment where she worked as part of a three-person emergency team in Aden, southern Yemen. She has shared her experiences with us in the following interview.
Q: What attracted you to the Internal Emergency Roster initially and what attracted you to international work more broadly?
A: I was initially attracted to the Internal Emergency Roster because of the professional development opportunities inherent to the position, including the chance to further my emergency expertise through practical experience. Very broadly, I enjoy international work because of the diverse and committed people with whom I get to work.
Q: Can you describe a day from your last week with the Roster, to give us a sense of what your time there was like?
A: Sure! I wake up and head down to breakfast, meeting my colleagues for coffee and toast. We discuss our plans for the day – coordination, assessment activities, needs – and then head off in our different directions. Throughout the day, we meet up and share information gleaned from various meetings. Much of my time is spent in front of my computer, compiling that information and ensuring it is reflected in our proposals. In the evenings, we’ll often meet with aid workers from different organisations to share experiences and thoughts over dinner.
Q: Is there an aspect of the programmes we are launching in Yemen that you’re especially excited about?
A: One of the highlights of my last week: I travelled with two colleagues and a member of the Minstry of Health to visit a health centre with which the IRC will be partnering. The IRC’s value-added to this partnership, in terms of providing technical expertise and assistance, is clear: the IRC will support the centre’s staff by enhancing their capacities to treat common communicable diseases, provide reproductive health care, treat children under five with severe acute malnutrition, counsel primary caretakers, and ensure proper management of water resources and disposal of waste. The health centre’s value-added to the partnership is also clear. I was privileged to meet some of the Yemeni health care providers who are working so hard – with such limited resources – to provide the people in their neighbourhood and the influx of IDPs with access to adequate health services. With these factors, and even in the midst of the current emergency situation, our project has the potential to create a positive and sustainable impact.
Q: You’ve worked in Gambia, Uganda, DRC, Senegal, and now Iraq. How did your experience with the Roster in Yemen compare?
A: Every area is both the same and different. Yemen is obviously its own unique place with a specific history. The physical beauty of the country surprised me – Aden, where I am staying, is a city tucked into the crater of an extinct volcano, surrounded on three sides by craggy mountains and on the last side by a bay of the Arabian sea. The women wear full burkhas when in public, even when at the swimming pool or on a treadmill in the hotel gym. Many of the men keep pouches of qat tucked into their cheeks throughout the afternoon, and, in Sana’a, wear short swords in their belts. In all five countries in which I’ve lived, I’ve been lucky to work beside enthusiastic and dedicated colleagues – I’m starting to believe that this is a norm in our field. I’ve seen both the complications of and the commitment to improving coordination between organisations and agencies.
Photography: Rachel Unkovic/The IRC