September 24, 2020

Highlighting Humanitarian Work Through the Eyes of a Fulbrighter

To commemorate World Humanitarian Day that falls on August 19th of every year, the Fulbright Commission in Jordan wanted to highlight the work and perspective of one of our Alumna, Dr. Dina Jaradneh, who has been working with UNHCR here in Jordan since.

This month, the world commemorates World Humanitarian Day (WHD) on August 19th. This year, the UN marks the 11th year this day has been recognized around the world. This day was first established by the United Nations to collectively commemorate humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work, and this year, the significance takes a more universal impact with the fight against a global pandemic that has affected countries with or without existing humanitarian crises and having to deal with the fight against COVID-19.

Photo Courtesy of Mohammad Hawari

We honor aid and health workers who tirelessly continue to show up and serve, despite the odds, and use any resources available to them to serve others the best way they can.

For this year, the Fulbright Commission in Jordan wanted to highlight the work and perspective of one of our Alumna, Dr. Dina Jaradneh, who received the Foreign Student Scholarship Award by the Fulbright Commission back in 2010, and pursued her Master’s degree in Public Health at the University of South Carolina in the United States. Dr. Jardaneh has since returned to work in the humanitarian field in Jordan and has agreed to answer a few questions and share a bit about her experience.


Thank you Dina for taking the time to answer these questions. For starters, how would you describe your professional work to people you meet for the first time?


Dina: I am someone who is passionate about the field of Public Health; since I was a 4th-year medical student, I decided to pursue my degree in Public Health rather than continue in the clinical field after studying medicine for 6 years. I have been working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Public Health unit since January of 2013. My role focuses on supporting the health needs of the refugee population in Jordan who are the sole focus of the aid offered by UNHCR. The support and aid we provide them is to ensure they have access to essential health care services as an average national Jordanian in the hosting community.  


How has your work shifted since the start of this pandemic, and the effect it has had on Jordan and the communities you serve?


Dina: Being in the field of Public Health, which is one of the fields that are directly impacted by the pandemic, made our work more crucial than ever. We have a big role in advocating for the inclusion of the refugee population within the national response plan of the pandemic. In addition, we also work to ensure all the challenges’ faced due to the lockdown, refugees are accessing the essential health services they need.


This year, the UN commemorates WHD under the theme Real Life Heroes, can you share a story in which you saw how humanitarian aid exemplifies that in your work? (This can be a story that happened to you, or you observed with other aid workers)


Dina: Before moving my duty station to Amman, I used to work as a Public Health Officer for UNHCR in Zaatari camp for 3 years. Which is considered the fifth-largest city in Jordan. Going on a daily basis to the camp at the beginning of the refugee crisis brings countless stories to my mind. I was part of a big team coordinating and organizing massive immunization campaigns in the camps, ensuring outbreaks like Polio and Measles don’t reach the camp, we used to work 7 days a week non-stop in order to ensure every child is vaccinated. This is one of many campaigns that I worked on. 

Other ones that were critical to the health of the refugees included campaigns establishing routine immunization clinics to ensure every child is receiving vaccines and not having that right interrupted for children due to war. Ensuring some diseases that are critical in Public Health systems like Tuberculosis, leishmania, Hepatitis A, some types of diarrheas are under control. Establishing a health care system of primary health care and proper referral to emergency life-saving health conditions out of the camps. All these are examples and activities we used to work on, on a daily basis, that reflects the significance of the work we do in the vast field of humanitarian aid and public health.


Photo Courtesy of Sebastian Rich

I can imagine that working in the humanitarian field can put aid workers in dangerous situations, this can range from ones that could be life-threatening, and down to harm that can be unseen to some, such as emotional and mental exhaustion and fatigue. How did you deal with the taxing nature of your work?


Dina: One of the major harms of this type of work as mentioned above is the unseen mental and emotional exhaustion as well as physical fatigue. I reached to a stage where I was burnt out. There are many methods I implemented to help in dealing with these challenges. The most important one is keeping in mind that you are serving people in real need and who happens to be one of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Other ways that helped me to deal with these stresses are getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and daily breathing exercises. It also helped me greatly sharing the challenges I was experiencing with close family members like my mother. 


What advice would you give to people who are thinking to work in the humanitarian field, whether they will engage in office or fieldwork?

Dina: In order to be prepared and face all the challenges you’re confronted with during the work in the humanitarian field, it is important to keep reminding yourself that this work goes beyond one person and that by showing up, you are serving people who are vulnerable and in dire need of protection, as well as in need to receive basic human rights, which in my case, was providing  access to basic health care among other things.


One last question, through your studies in the United States and being a Fulbrighter, what did the experience teach you, or what tools has it given you that you see it reflected in your work today? (if any)


Dina: The Fulbright experience has built my personality to a point that helped me deal with many challenges and stresses that I face in my work. In addition, the courses I took during my master’s degree and my academic degree helped me in providing major guiding principles in the field of public health information that I use in my work as a humanitarian worker. 

UNHCR published a video feature of Dina back in 2014 during one of the vaccination campaigns she mentioned in the interview. You can watch the video below, or through this link HERE.

You can learn more about World Humanitarian Day by visiting the page HERE.

Photo Courtesy of the images used go to Mohammad Hawari, and Photographer Sebastian Rich.

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