As a humanitarian aid worker, you will be travelling to some of the most impoverished and dangerous areas of the world as you provide essential assistance to those in areas subjected to natural disaster or war. This aid can also come in the form of missionary work to people in third-world countries. In all of these situations, as a humanitarian aid worker, you will encounter a higher health risk than someone traveling through an area as a tourist. Therefore, proper pre-travel precautions are even more essential, and here are five tips to maintain your own health during the time you spend rendering assistance to those in need:
Preparing to Go
Once you learn that you are traveling overseas, you should schedule a visit with a travel health specialist. They can provide you with valuable information about the area to which you are traveling and the health risks you are likely to encounter. The specialist can then help you protect your health by supplying you with appropriate vaccinations, medications and essential components for your travel kit, such as water purification tablets, mosquito repellent and sunscreen.
Packing your Travel Kit
As a humanitarian aid worker, you will need to make sure that you have all the essential supplies with you to protect your own health abroad, as these items are not likely to be widely available in your destination. Some of the items you may want to pack include:
- water purification tablets and/or filtration system, if water sources may be compromised
- mosquito repellent and mosquito netting, in areas subject to malaria especially
- sunscreen and hat
- protective gloves and goggles
- protective face mask, in areas subject to contagious illness
- first aid kit
- medication for prevention of travelers’ diarrhea
Manage Your Stress Levels
When entering a disaster area, it is easy to become emotionally stressed by the people and situations that you encounter. Be sure to bring family photos with you, so you can maintain a connection with the world you left behind. Many humanitarian aid workers find that keeping a journal of their experiences is a great way to alleviate stress during the situation, and the journal can be an invaluable source of information as you plan for future missions. Contact with those at home can also be another way to manage stress and maintain essential communication with your loved ones.
Minimize Risk of Injury
If you are in an area that just suffered a natural disaster, you face the additional physical risk of injury from unstable building collapses or injuries caused by falling debris. Stay alert to your surroundings and the possible dangers you may encounter as you go into the community to render assistance. If you are injured while on-site, even if it is something as simple as a small cut, seek attention from medical personnel traveling with you in order to minimize the chance of infection.
Upon Your Return
When you return home, be aware of your own health condition. If you experience any medical symptoms indicating that you may have been exposed to illness or disease during your trip, arrange to visit a medical professional as soon as possible.
Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression. Over 30 percent of humanitarian aid workers experience depression after they return home. If you believe you are suffering from depression upon your return, seek counseling so that you can cope better with the issue.
Your service as a humanitarian aid worker is of great value to those you are helping. Maintaining your own physical and emotional health is of utmost importance, so you can continue to provide support services to those in need during a crisis situation.
Remember: Maintaining your own good health is the best way to ensure that you can be of help to others.