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WHO Study Suggests: Field Workers Unprepared

A recently published WHO study on emergency field personnel in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania has found that they are not given adequate preparation before dispatch to the field.
The study found that aid workers receive inadequate training and information to prepare them for the living and working conditions they are likely to find in their new posting. The study also criticises personnel policy of many aid agencies stating that "Many staff are recruited hurriedly and casually with little time for references or checking of references". Almost a quarter of field workers surveyed said that they had been recruited solely on the basis of written correspondence and had not been asked to provide any references. Also highlighted in the report were the shortcomings of briefings "on security issues and political matters", and the fact that "staff sometimes feel they are placed at unnecessary risk as a result".
WHO were particularly concerned about the issues of personnel health. Of the more than 200 relief workers questioned, 53% had not received any medical briefing prior to departure and 20% were unsure of their vaccination status. The survey also found a high incidence of illness with 59% of respondents reporting general fatigue and 50% headaches. Almost 20% of the sample suffered from diarrhoea within the first two weeks of arrival. According to the study "more deserves to be done in terms of information, education and management of food and water consumption". The study concluded that "Not to provide staff with clear guidelines on how to deal with these situations might in the future surface in the courtrooms"

For further information:
Health Communications and Public Relations, WHO, Geneva. Tel 41-22-791 4458 Fax 41-22-791 4858. E-Mail: hartlg@who.ch

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WHO Study Suggests: Field Workers Unprepared. Field Exchange 5, October 1998. p13. www.ennonline.net/fex/5/who

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