The environments in which aid workers are assigned typically require our understanding and acceptance that "anything could happen". Due to such unpredictable circumstances, we are expected to be physically, mentally, emotionally and professionally prepared.
It seems inherent that our employers would (and should!) be similarly prepared for such eventualities and, importantly, that it would be their responsibility to prepare us for such eventualities.
The reality, however, is that aid workers often enter the field without adequate training and, in some cases, even without a professional interview, psychological screening, or a general assessment of individual capacity to withstand the challenges of the field. Such negligence poses a serious risk - not only to the individual staff member who arrives grossly unprepared for the reality of field life but, likewise, for his/her colleagues and for those s/he is there to serve. Further, it adversely reflects on the employer and gives the affiliated organization a poor reputation in the eyes of the local community.
It's not only in the preparation of aid workers that we are failing.
When critical/traumatic incidents arise, there is likewise limited support. In fact, in some cases, it seems there is not even recognition of the responsibility of humanitarian and development organizations to come to the rescue of affected staff members or to support them in the immediate aftermath or longer term of such incidents. Yet, if the work entails risk of trauma, it is the distinct responsibility of employers to provide support to staff survivors of trauma.
Is this the pattern humanitarian and development agencies wish to set?
One would certainly hope not. Sadly, however, it seems this pattern is already firmly established.
It is, therefore, critical that aid-working employers accept responsibility in areas that are indeed their responsibility and provide their staff members with adequate support, particularly prior to field missions and in the aftermath of critical/traumatic incidents.