Bad humanitarian or human being?

29 June 2020

In the first of June’s two Embodying Change podcasts, Fifty Shades of Aid founder Imogen Wall draws our attention to the huge amount of existing research and practice in other sectors on the impact of mentally and emotionally demanding work.

“…if you go into a situation, very acute stress, and one that takes away a lot of your standard coping mechanisms, which is what most of us do when we deploy, you’re going to have a reaction to that. And that doesn’t make you a bad humanitarian that makes you a human being.”

She challenges us to catch up with sectors like the military and healthcare who have taken vicarious trauma and the need to provide debrief and on-going support to anyone responding much more seriously:

“There are lots of different professions that deal with suffering people and they are all recognising and managing and hardwiring responses to this challenge. And I don’t understand why, why we think that it’s different for us [humanitarians], and therefore that it’s acceptable to have the casualty level that we have in mental health.”

You can listen to Imogen in conversation with Mary Ann now here:

And find out more about Imogen at

In the second June episode of the podcast we hear from Lana Baqaeen a Regional Staff Care Specialist for MENA Region with IRC Duty of Care Programme. Lana talked us through how CHS Alliance Member International Rescue Committee (IRC), have carried out extensive work to develop their internal duty of care programme over the past few years.

IRC are now providing professional support that covers all staff and their families and are really recognising the impact of the work they do on their people. IRC provide comprehensive support in a number of different languages; they also work virtually to provide care where necessary and think about the cross-cultural issues that are important in meeting their staff Duty of Care.

This conversation with Lana is an important example of how good practice is being developed in the sector to meet some of the challenges identified in the Caring & Compassionate Aid Organisation’s mapping report in terms of the provision of mental health care to staff.

You can listen to Lana in conversation with Mary Ann now here:

You can listen to more of our series of podcast on building care and compassion in aid and development and subscribe the following links:

CHS website: