October 05

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A real lifetime HUMANITARIAN

Most of us working in GSK sit behind our desks and make decisions that impact people but we do not see first-hand the real impact that we make to people’s lives.

During my stay at Save The Children Australia(“STC”), I had the privilege of meeting Dr Unni Krishnan who is Director, Emergency Health Unit – Asia & Pacific. The Emergency Health Unit (EHU) is a capability to respond to the growing medical and health needs and gaps in humanitarian settings. It is a technical and operational facility that can be activated instantly to provide front line and timely medical and health response in humanitarian settings..

Dr Unni has worked since 1991 in various Not for Profit organisations. He has worked in the field, published many articles & books & conducted many public lectures & interviews. He believes that working as a humanitarian allows him to be part of the solution and sees results every day – both while fighting crises and mobilising resources to fight crisis. He recently posted an interesting article on Celebrating the Humanitarian spirit ( goo.gl/y1RDch ).

Dr Unni was very happy to grant me an interview to share his lifetime experiences. Following are some of the questions which I posed to Dr Unni and his responses.

What made you take up this humanitarian work?

Consider the facts.

  • Today, the world has over 65 million people who are forcefully displaced from their homes of which 21 million are refugees, half of these children.
  • Tonight, 800 million people will go to bed hungry. They can’t access or afford food.
  • 16,000 children die, every day, from causes we can prevent. Given the right context and support, these are children who could grow up like you and me.

Humanitarian work is about saving such lives, sometimes stopping these deaths and above all extending the spirit of humanity to people. Ok, Agnes, now tell me is there an option not to take up humanitarian work?

 Have you ever felt that your mission was hopeless?

Disasters and conflicts reconfigure lives and landscapes. I had the privilege of standing side by side, and working with children and people who are caught up in disasters, conflict and disease outbreak settings, in over 40 countries, worldwide. Such settings make you sad, upset, sometimes even angry. Despite all the suffering and challenges they face when their lives change for ever, many survivors, especially children, also make you smile. Some inspire. That makes you hopeful.

I am from Kerala, South India and those who have been there know what the terrain is like, monsoon, ponds, red bright graffiti. As a child, sometimes when confronted by difficult days, my mother taught me a simple lesson. When you get up in the morning and look through the window, she said that I have two options. Either to focus on the dirty, muddy and filthy pond or the blooming red lotus. She said the choice is yours, as long as I don’t forget that the other is also a reality. This has been an important reminder for me, in my work for the past 25 years.

You have the choice to look at the problem or contribute to the solution. You can be a pessimist and do nothing about it. You can be a dreaming optimist and expect things to happen. Or you can hope for the best, be a ‘possibilist’ and do something about it.

If you had one wish to be granted, what would that be?

I will ask for three wishes! I wish the world is more compassionate, the world puts children first and the world gives children and peace a chance.