Who works for UNHCR? It is not only foreigners coming to Bangladesh to work. There are many Bangladeshis who work for UNHCR in other countries. How are their lives? How is their work? How do they feel working for refugees in another country?
Let’s listen to U Aye Maung today, a Bangladeshi who has been working with UNHCR … for refugees … around the world.
“My journey with UNHCR began over nine years ago. I joined UNHCR in 2011 as a Public Health Officer during an emergency in the Dolo Ado district of Ethiopia. There was an emergency situation with Somali refugees. They were displaced due to famine and measles outbreaks. Since then, I have worked in different positions in many different countries. I always feel proud and grateful for having the opportunity to help those people who most need support from me and from UNHCR; and I have enjoyed every moment working with my devoted teams.
I was born in the area of Narangiri Mukh at Chondroghona Union, which is in the Kaptai Upazilla of Rangamati District of Bangladesh. When I was 2 years old, my parents moved to Bandarban District where they would settle permanently. My first school was Don Bosco Primary School, it was called Bandarban Govt High School then. My favorite childhood memories are of helping my parents fetching water, cooking, washing dishes and clothes. I loved spending time with my siblings and friends. Those memories still keep me simple. They help me manage my life in any situation; and keep my values of family and friendship strong.
I heard about UNHCR from my uncle and my cousin first. My uncle used to work for UNHCR in Myanmar, where he settled. My cousin also used to work in the UNHCR office in Cox’s Bazar, he now lives in Canada.
Before joining UNHCR, I had worked in different organizations in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sudan, Thailand, Liberia, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom. I had the experience of leading several emergency operations. My biggest passion was to continue to work with humanitarian agencies and emergency operations. UNHCR is one of very few organizations that provides protection to vulnerable people; as well as ensuring lifesaving assistance, basic safety, rights and dignity.
Following my first assignment in Ethiopia with UNHCR, I went to Uganda to work as a Field Officer. There I worked in Arua, to establish a settlement and receive refugees from South Sudan. By the time I finished my mission in Uganda, there was an intense tropical Cyclone Idai hitting several countries in southern Africa. So, I went to Zimbabwe to work as Senior Field Officer / Protection Cluster Coordinator. I was involved in the Emergency response and deployment in Mutare city and Harare province of Zimbabwe.
I later joined the UNHCR operation in Angola, where refugees were willing and ready to go back to their homes. As a Repatriation Officer, I led the Voluntary Repatriation Program of Congolese refugees. This was a beautiful experience to witness.
Apart from these positions, I completed several short emergency missions. For example, I have been to Gambella in Ethiopia, after the South Sudanese influx and disease outbreak emergency. I once also went to Turkana in Kenya to support an emergency brought on by drought. My career evolved from one emergency to another; while my work has shifted from technical to management.
The work we do can sometimes be very difficult. For example, I still have sad and emotional memories about the Hilaweyn and Kobe refugee camps in Ethiopia. Due to a famine, there were so many Somali refugee children affected by severe malnutrition. It was heartbreaking for us when we used to count the number of graves every week.
But humanity and my humanitarian colleagues have always been my inspirations. Now I am here, in Tanzania, working as a Field Officer in Kibondo and Kakonko Districts, where we are working with refugees from Burundi. I lead needs assessments and I am involved in the distribution of core relief items, camp management, coordination, cohesion between the host community and refugees, and service implementation for two refugee camps.
UNHCR is one of the very few organizations that ensures international protection for over 70 million refugees, internally displaced and stateless people around the world. UNHCR respects diversity and inclusion within the organization. I always wanted to stand with refugees and now I am happy to be able to do that. It is absolutely worthwhile.
Do you want to be like me?
Can you be like me?
It is possible if you are a true humanitarian, and you are devoted to working for refugees.”