« My strongest memories are those relating to the people with whom I have worked »
Eric Besse - Country Director in the Central African Republic
For almost a year now, Eric Besse has been working as Country Director in the Central African Republic for Action contre la Faim which he joined early 2013. He first started as Field Coordinator in Chad and Iraqi Kurdistan. As an aid worker his strongest memories were those of the people he was in contact with daily. National employees involved in their work despite their own difficulties as it was the case for the seventeen employees of Muttur
When the tragedy of Muttur took place ten years ago, I was an employee in the private sector and I was very keen on listening to the news and several of my close friends were working in the humanitarian sector. So when humanitarian workers were being killed, of course I was bound to read press articles. I already wished to work with non-governmental organizations.
Before joining Action contre la Faim in 2013, I worked in the aerospace industry in France having a lot of contacts with the United States and England. I decided to leave for a trip around the world - without flying - to practice photography and meet people from other cultures. It took a full year to take the pulse of our good old mother Earth and achieve my wish to go and meet people. Then I settled down in Colombia for two years.
These travels confirmed my deep-rooted wish to concretely take action. Joining the humanitarian sphere was like giving meaning to my actions, participating in making things better for the people in need. The recent years were spent in various complex contexts, in countries at the mercy of civil war, but touch wood, there was no reported death among our teams.
There are many things and stories to tell regarding all what I have done since my first humanitarian commitment. However, my strongest and most intense memories are those regarding the people with whom I worked and who often belonged to the same populations as those we were providing assistance to.
When I say that, I think of people like Farok, Yezidi, who is working with ACF Food Security teams in Iraqi Kurdistan. With his family, he had to walk 200 kilometres in a semi-desert area in Northern Iraq to reach Zakho. Some of his close relations were murdered, others died of starvation or of cold on the way to Zakho. At that time, they lived in a tower under construction in Dabeen City with 7,000 other people. Every morning he got up at 4 am to attend the briefing session in Dohuk - about two hours driving from his living place - then he was going in the field before going all the way back in the evening.
Still in Iraqi Kurdistan, Bassam is a Syrian refugee who crossed the border alone in 2012 before having his wife and child come and live with him. He was a Construction Engineer and could quickly find a job in an oil company before hearing of the existence of NGOs. He left a better paid job to join us. He was an irreproachable and open-handed person, always ready to help people. He climbed the ladder to become the local Program Manager in our projects relating to water, sanitation and hygiene. Unfortunately he was expelled by Kurdistan last summer and was obliged to return to Syria in the middle of civil war.
I also think of our local staff in the Central African Republic. Several of our colleagues working in Bangui have to regularly change places in their own city because of waves of violence. Last September, they had to flee from the areas where they lived with their wives and children. They took a few things, and take shelter in another part of the city. Their houses are partially destroyed, their inhabitants emptied out of their districts, their living conditions are precarious and yet they continue to carry out their humanitarian mission with great determination and remarkable commitment.
Within ten years the humanitarian sector has greatly changed. Seen from the outside, it can be said that the image of neutrality of humanitarian actors has deteriorated and that our access to vulnerable populations reduces. Aid workers are now targeted. We need to adapt and adjust ourselves and we must be the first ones to vouch for humanitarian principles such as humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Ten years ago, Muttur was an exceptional occurrence in the way that it came out of normality, but now unfortunately it has become our daily reality.
All the stories below:
« My strongest memories are those relating to the people with whom I have worked »Eric Besse
For almost a year now, Eric Besse has been working as Country Director in the Central African Republic for Action contre la Faim which he joined early 2013. As an aid worker his strongest memories were those of the people he was in contact with daily. National employees involved in their work despite their own difficulties as it was the case for the seventeen employees of Muttur.
« Even if it is a tough job, we experience moments of great pride »Charlotte Schneider
Charlotte Schneider is the Emergency Pool Coordinator. With her team, she intervenes during the most acute times of the crisis to deliver vital and urgent aid to vulnerable populations. She worked in Afghanistan, Haïti, on the Syrian crises and in Cameroon. The Muttur tragedy, one month before she joined Action contre la Faim, reinforced her commitment.
« Our birth is a lottery »Caroline Antoine
Caroline Antoine is a Health Advisor at Action contre la Faim. With a Master Degree in public health, specialized in the management of health programmes, and trained in applied epidemiology, she joined the NGO world in 2008. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Chad, she worked for several years in the field and she recalls her particular situation in 2006 on the anniversary of the Muttur massacre.
« The emergency responses were those that make me feel that I was the most useful to people »Marie Sardier
Marie Sardier joined Action contre la Faim ten years ago, shortly after the Muttur tragedy. After helping Togolese refugees in Ghana, she worked in Somalia, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali and other countries. She is now a Food Security and Livelihoods Advisor at the Paris headquarters. She recalls her humanitarian experiences which taught her a lot about herself.