Refugees who left their homes to save their lives. Children who witnessed deaths that are numbered way more than their years. Mothers who struggled to save their children from calamity, hunger, and conflict.
These are the people Lourdes Ibarra usually meets all in a day’s work.
In times of calamity, extreme poverty, and civil conflict, humanitarian workers from around the world rise to the challenge of helping people fight hunger and insecurity. They go to places devoid of stability, security, and food assistance at the expense of their own comfort and safety.
As a humanitarian worker for 17 years, Ibarra experienced living at the remotest area in Africa and Middle East to respond to the needs of people affected by famine or natural disasters. Currently, she serves as the head of the programs of the World Food Programme‘s (WFP) operations in Damascus, Syria, assisting more than 4.5 million victims of the civil conflicts.
While Ibarra didn’t choose the profession out of convenience nor for its perks, she definitely was not prepared for the demands it required. In providing aid to those in need, Ibarra faced threats posed by nearby insurgents and even experienced settling in places with undesirable living conditions.
“Being in the deep field, a woman [like me] faces challenges in the lack of decent accommodation and basic facilities. I have experienced to be in deep, deep field when we used to live in tents with common toilets and shower in Bor, South Sudan, with the presence of snakes and teeming with mosquitoes,” Ibarra shared.
“If I am asked to define ‘humanitarian’ work in one word, for me it means ‘giving’. Because it is when you give yourself for this noble cause that you truly give,” Ibarra said.