In the context of a displaced or refugee population influx, staff needs are many.
Doctors, nurses, sanitation specialists, logisticians, home visitors and administrators – people with the necessary skills must quickly be found to effectively perform the tasks connected with emergency aid programmes.
Staff recruitment, management and training cannot be improvised. They depend on the context and the skills available locally.
The number and type of staff positions required are determined according to the activities planned, and should meet all the priority needs of the target populations to be helped.
All health care facilities such as hospitals, health centres and feeding centres, as well as mobile clinics, should have a detailed organisational chart.
Médecins Sans Frontières establishes the objectives and a job description for each position, describing the activities to be carried out in detail.
There are standard job descriptions for several category of staff, but these should be tailored to the situation and the specific demands of the operation.
The labour laws of the host country must be taken into account; these concern, among other things, qualifications, contracts, and salaries – including the status of the refugees employed in the camp.
When the staff does not have the requisite qualifications, training is needed as soon as the emergency begins.
Specific training is given, for example, for a measles vaccination campaign or for managing a cholera outbreak.
Careful attention to staff training also contributes to knowledge transfer.
If immediate training is impossible, targeted briefings are always useful for reviewing and explaining health priorities.
At the same time, it is important to hold regular meetings with the staff for sharing information and giving the staff feedback on ongoing activities.
The priority for international staff at the beginning of an emergency operation is to get activities started and to provide training.
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After that, they generally spend their time supervising the various programmes and providing technical assistance.
Recruitment from the resident or displaced population
Whether to give preference to the local or displaced population when recruiting will depend on the work itself and on the local context.
Displaced or refugee staff members have the advantage of being familiar with their population’s culture and language. This makes it easy for them to get involved in activities to improve the well-being of their group.
They are an invaluable link between the community and aid operators, facilitating translation and comprehension of everyday life at the sites and camps.
Employing staff from the host country makes it easier for the local population to accept the aid given to the refugees, and reduces any tensions between the communities. This can negatively impact national programmes, however, if too many people are hired away from them.
It is important to maintain a gender balance, while still taking the social and cultural standards of the population into account. In some cases, women refugees can use health care services more readily if there are female staff.
By working closely with and listening to the displaced population, Médecins Sans Frontières can gain a more nuanced knowledge of the situation and improve the effectiveness of its programmes.