Here’s your Saturday morning reading on aidworker well-being, the Hippocratic Oath and technology leapfrogging in India…
Alessandra, an experienced humanitarian worker, clinical psychologist, and academic researcher studying aid workers’ mental health and well-being, answers your questions. She discusses how to shift an organisation’s culture to think about wellness, concrete steps to create a more supportive environment, how to handle burnout and more. A common theme is that there are no quick fixes.
“Before we can encounter the suffering of others, we need to meet it in ourselves. Then it becomes a mutual healing process–I’m helping others, and in that human exchange, they help me. We can pretend aid work is just a job that pays the bills and gets you around the world, but for most humanitarian professionals, it’s much more than that. It’s a kind of existential choice, a choice for which Kanaan paid with his life.”
“The most frustrating aspect was not the patients, but the international NGO (INGO) that deployed me. My direct supervisor and senior manager had no recent clinical experience, and therefore weren’t comfortable making medical related decisions. Protocols and guidelines were mostly written by non-medics. Decisions were made from behind laptops in air-conditioned offices miles away from the clinics.”
“Let us set aside the top down mindset that has gradually crept in to the medical practice. Let us please reconsider the importance of the Oath of Hippocrates, and use it as the start and end point of our medical aid projects, both in the western world and in low- and middle income countries. The patients will be grateful, and so will the donors eventually.”
3. Playing Leapfrog | A Special Report on India in The Economist
Some techno-optimism and exhortations for unleashing the power of the private sector from The Economist (of course!). They should many Indians could skip supermarkets and car and go straight to ordering online and smartphone-based taxi services. Perhaps more impressively, the Indian government has created the world’s biggest biometric database has so far created a reliable digital identity for 850m people (the target is one billion by the summer). In addition, there is an app that allows you to upload a geo-tagged photograph to alert city officials if you spot a pothole or a pile of rubbish in Bangalore.
I’d be interested to read more about this and hear about the downsides and the politics. See more of the special report.