Fahima Abdulaziz smiling happily with the children from Maguindanao. Photo credit: WFP Philippines/ Hasim Guiamil
Fahima Abdulaziz is one of the longest-serving Field Monitor Assistants in WFP Philippines. Here she shares how she started and what motivates her to carry on as a humanitarian worker.
“I was excited and felt very lucky for the opportunity to join the world’s largest humanitarian organization.”
This was how Fahima Abdulaziz felt when she began work as a Field Monitor Assistant for the World Food Programme in the Philippines when she was 22 years old. Fahima started working in the Cotabato Sub-Office back in 2006 when WFP returned to the country to complement the government’s food and nutrition security efforts in the conflict-affected areas of Central Mindanao. She was then the only Field Monitor covering three provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat.
Born and raised in Cotabato, Fahima remembers her first field mission in Pikit, North Cotabato, where she met a student who was affected by the 2002 "all-out-war" and had stopped going to classes. Back then, she remembered thinking, “how can we achieve peace if children live in evacuation camps which neither meets their basic needs nor present them opportunities for growth and development?”
This compassion for others and desire for peace in her homeland were her motivations to become a humanitarian worker to help address the basic needs of the people affected by conflict and disasters.
“There’s no nobler profession than being a humanitarian worker. What I like most about being a Field Monitor is that you are a peace advocate. As a Field Monitor, you facilitate food distribution to make sure that food insecurities will be addressed or minimized. I believe when a community has access to food at all times, peace will reign,” Fahima said.
Aside from her office base in Cotabato, Fahima has also been assigned to Central Luzon and CALABARZON for Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) in 2009, Cagayan de Oro for Typhoon Sendong (Washi) in 2011, Davao Oriental, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur for Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012, and in Zamboanga for the conflict in 2013 up until today. As a Field Monitor, she is tasked to conduct emergency response and early recovery and rehabilitation to help achieve the goal of zero hunger. This entails a need to work quickly to make sure the affected populations are reached as soon as possible. “We are the frontliners, the wings of the organization. We have to act fast just to reach the most vulnerable communities and ensure that every family has enough food on their plates,” Fahima explained.
Huge emergency operations across different locations are not without its challenges. “There are internal and external challenges that lead to frustrations in delivering services to the affected communities which we cannot avoid,” Fahima narrated.
Politics is also sometimes an issue and humanitarian workers have to maintain their neutrality amidst the different dynamics. “A humanitarian worker needs to balance everything because our target is to reach the people,” she added.
Peace and security is a challenge as well and situations are bound to be unpredictable in the field. Fahima has experienced an incident where she was threatened by armed men in a community when she was monitoring their food distribution.
Another unpredictable situation which Fahima said she will never forget was the time they had a car accident on the way to one of the remote villages of Maguindanao. “I thought it was my last day on Earth but when I opened my eyes, I did not see any scars or wounds except for the damaged car and house. God was so good to me and for me, the message is clear – I am here to continue my mission,” she said.
Eight years on since she began working for WFP, Fahima – considered one of the longest-serving Field Monitors in WFP Philippines – remains fulfilled and committed to her job. “We travel in bumpy roads, flooded areas and conflict-affected villages. We leave early and come back late. We see and hear sad experiences. We see and talk to different faces; the community feels you listen to them and you're being their voice. When I see and feel the glimmer of hope from them, as a humanitarian worker, I am the happiest person.”