World Humanitarian Day 2023
This World Humanitarian Day, meet some of our humanitarians
No matter where, and no matter what, our staff continue to work tirelessly to improve the lives of Pacific children.
8 years, 12 emergencies!
Meet Waqairapoa Tikoisuva, UNICEF Pacific’s WASH Specialist in Kiribati
Waqairapoa started his journey with UNICEF as an emergency officer. Working with communities on how to improve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and seeing the difference the support provided, whether early response activities like distribution of WASH kits, or mid to long term support, like construction and rehabilitation of WASH systems has been the best part of Waqairapoa’s eight-year journey with UNICEF Pacific as a humanitarian worker.
“Also talking to communities following a response to get their feedback is very enlightening and sometimes eye opening, as it provides a lot of insights that sometimes we miss but is very important to inform response.”
3 years, 3 emergencies!
Meet Sandrine Benjimen, UNICEF Pacific’s WASH Officer in Vanuatu
Having started her journey with UNICEF three years ago, Sandrine was not new to emergencies. Prior to joining UNICEF, Sandrine had worked in several emergency responses in Vanuatu, which include volcano eruption, health outbreak, cyclones, earthquake, and drought.
“The best part of my work as a humanitarian worker is being able to sit down with women, girls, and children to listen to and understand their needs and current situation with lots of empathy. Also being willing to walk the extra mile to support, wherever I can, to build communities resilience to disasters.”
When the recent twin back-to-back cyclones hit Vanuatu, Sandrine was one of the first to be deployed.
“I was part of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) deployed to Tanna and Aniwa to support the initial rapid assessment, quick fixes, and provision of critical WASH services in affected communities.
Hiking for two days to reach Valapei community, the last village at the foot of the Santo Peak located at 900m above sea level has been one of the most difficult journey’s that Sandrine has had to make in order to reach disaster affected communities.
“At some point, we had to crawl on hands and knees for some time, and we were given walking sticks to navigate the terrain.”
While it has been one of the most difficult journeys, it was also the most rewarding and life changing experience for Sandrine.
“Pacific communities will remain the most resilient in the face of the climate crisis and disasters. What is important as a humanitarian worker is to understand and build on the community’s resilience.”
4 years, 7 emergencies!
Meet Silas Sitai, UNICEF Pacific’s Education Officer in the Solomon Islands
Having started his journey with UNICEF in January of 2019, Silas has worked in several emergency responses, which include landslides, flooding, cyclone, earthquake, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to emergencies to ensure children’s return to school has been the best part of his journey as a humanitarian worker.
In the Solomon Islands, a country of six bigger islands and hundreds of smaller islands, traveling by ships and banana boats is a normal means of commuting between the islands.
“In 2020, I went with government officers to provide technical support in the installation of UNICEF-supported tents in eight schools destroyed by the cyclone in Central Province in a banana boat. The weather was really bad that day and the sea was rough. Despite all odds, we crossed the ocean to reach the schools.”
As he recalls that day, Silas adds “The joy and satisfaction seen in the eyes and faces of the small children, their parents and community members after installing the tents as temporary learning spaces was truly a joy for me.”
“It was a trip worth taking to help the most disadvantaged children.”
5 years, 2 emergencies!
Meet Fabiola Bibi, UNICEF Pacific’s Education Officer in Vanuatu
Fabiola has been supporting emergency response efforts in Vanuatu, a cyclone prone country in the Pacific, to ensure learning continuity and children’s return to school as soon as possible.
“It was raining and there was a river, which we had to cross. The road was muddy and our truck, full of education supplies, got stuck in the mud.”
On this day, Fabiola was stuck for three hours until help arrived, while supporting response efforts in the aftermath of the recent twin cyclones.
When asked how her work resonates with this year’s theme – ‘No Matter What’, Fabiola adds, “when a disaster strikes, it is about putting children first and responding within or less than 48 hours”.