Peter Jourdan works for WFP in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. A Norwegian, he is part of a programme which provides work experience and training opportunities for young professionals who are interested in pursuing a career in international development or aid. In this article, Peter reflects on the joys and challenges of his work in West Africa.
What do you do for the World Food Programme?
I work as a junior programme officer for WFP in Burkina Faso. The country has few natural resources and the climate is challenging, with frequent droughts and little rain. Additionally, thousands have recently fled across the border to escape the conflict in neighbouring Mali.
I work with nutrition projects targeting people who are particularly exposed to malnutrition and its serious health consequences. One of WFP’s projects provides food for people who are HIV-positive. In addition to the food rations, we also provide nutritional advice and cooking tips, and we organise courses and group conversations on how to live with HIV and how to protect oneself and others against HIV infection.
An important part of the project is the collaboration between WFP, the government of Burkina Faso and community-based organisations that promotes income generating activities for people living with HIV. This enables people living with HIV to make their own money and provide for themselves and their families.
What is the most challenging about your job?
WFP’s projects are exclusively dependent on funding from donors. The challenge is often to direct the attention and donations not only towards acute emergencies, but also towards long-term crises and development work.
Why did you decide to start working for WFP?
I wanted to work in an established and international institution, and the ideals of the UN appeal to me as a person. WFP is also one of the most operational UN organisations.
Have you experienced the effect of WFP’s presence in the country?
On one of my field trips I met an HIV-positive widow and single mother. Before she knew that she was infected, she became seriously ill and lost a lot of weight. When her husband died of AIDS shortly after, she was alone in providing for her family. With the help from WFP, she has been able to recover and today has her own business.
What kind of advice would you give to others who seek a career in humanitarian work?
Field work is an invaluable experience if you want to work with humanitarian development. Nothing can replace the closeness to the people you work for; or the exposure to other cultures than your own; or the joy of solving seemingly impossible tasks. For me, being part of WFP’s fight against hunger and poverty is a unique opportunity and privilege.
To learn more about the Junior Professional Officer programme, click here.