Natural disasters and catastrophes have always and will always continue to plague the world. Taking up a career in this most needed field can often seem daunting, with so many organizations, regions, countries, and populations to choose from. However, these jobs are often the most rewarding. When disaster and crisis hit, there is an urgent need for a massive, coordinated reaction from the international community, often with very short notice. This is where disaster relief organizations and confederations of NGOs and INGOs come in to pay. While most national and local governments will certainly have response protocols and systems in place to cope with the destruction, many disasters and crises require help from the outside.
The need for international assistance affects the entire world, and relief is made possible by the efforts of many thousands of organizations. Dedicating their energy to helping those in need and generally making the world a better place is the mission and mantra of most humanitarian agencies. While the following list is certainly not exhaustive, it does highlight several large international organizations that have made strides in the field of disaster and crisis response. These are important issues that, unfortunately, will never cease to plague the Earth but, with help from well-organized responses and the hardworking people who deliver them, progress can certainly be made. The following organizations in particular are known to be some of the frontrunners in the disaster and crisis response field, and recent graduates or others looking to find a job in the field can begin their search with them.
Over 90 percent of deaths related to disasters occur in developing countries. World Vision is one of the international humanitarian organizations who work in many of these often hard to reach places. They are known for responding to disaster and conflict with speed, saving many lives in the process. In addition to providing disaster responders and coordinators both on the ground and in country offices, World Vision provides supplies and supports sustainable, long-term recovery projects that assist the people of concern in rebuilding their lives. Team members may work on immediate response teams, with those closest to the disaster responding within hours. Within days, the global rapid response team is deployed to the field to provide expertise in their respective areas. World Vision operates on a “first in, last out” philosophy, and is a great place to work for those wishing to contribute to disaster and crisis relief.
For the last century, Save the Children has met the world’s unprecedented challenges with generosity, knowledge, and assistance. The organization has grown to have country offices around the world, directly reaching tens of millions of people each year. Though they assist communities in general during and after disaster and conflict, they are the premiere organization for considering the needs of children, who are often the most vulnerable after crisis hits. They are known to be among the first responders to natural disasters around the world, and they stay as long as it takes to assist children and families in recovering from their losses and building resilience to move forward. Save the Children assists in many sectors, from WASH and education to child protection and health.
Oxfam International is technically a confederation of over 18 NGOs, which, for job seekers, means more opportunities with more organizations. They operate with partners in over 90 countries, helping those who need it most after natural disasters and crises. When responding to emergency situations, Oxfam teams aim to provide clean drinking and bathing water, food, protection, and sanitation facilities. With such an extensive network and a long history, Oxfam reports that they are responding to over 30 emergencies at any given time of the year. Positions can be found within their international secretariat or with their affiliates.
The International Red Cross responds to disasters and crises around the world. Staff within this organization also go wherever they are needed, which often includes dangerous and unstable environments. They provide water, shelter, clothes, meals, and sanitation mechanisms to people in both the immediate aftermath of a disaster as well as during the recovery phase. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ‘parent’ organization, established the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund in 1985 in order to provide the necessary and immediate financial support that Red Cross societies need in order to respond to disasters effectively. Positions within the network can range from collecting goods and coordinating from abroad to responding on the ground in the field. The Red Cross also places a high priority on family reunification, one of the most important factors for mental well-being in beneficiaries who have survived a disaster or crisis.
CARE International provides emergency response and support staff to over 94 countries around the globe. Like Oxfam, CARE is actually a confederation, with 14 member organizations who work together to mitigate and end the poverty that is so prevalent after a conflict or natural disaster. Additionally, CARE staff in the field place an emphasis on disaster preparedness, particularly in areas of the world that are so prone and susceptible to experiencing natural disasters regularly. These preparedness programs and initiatives play a critical role in the potential economic, structural, and psychosocial outcomes for a community during and after a disaster.
Humanitarian aid workers are employed to work in emergency zones, places affected by conflict, natural disasters, or refugee crises. Their job is to provide vulnerable populations with assistance such as healthcare, distribution of food and non-food items, shelter, and water sanitation. This type of work is frequently the most dynamic and stressful of all in the field of human rights due to the constant prolonged contact with people in need; yet, at the same time, humanitarian assistance is above necessary in emergencies and its impact on communities can be very rewarding for aid workers, too.
International aid workers can be employed in a number of different positions, such as field officers and coordinators, medics, logisticians, and project managers, participating in planning, implementing, and monitoring different projects.
To start building an international career as an aid worker, take a look at these top organizations that regularly offer humanitarian aid worker jobs.
One of the top organizations working with refugees and migrants, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), has field presence in dozens of countries in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe. All of the areas in which NRC staff works include working directly with the beneficiaries. The organization provides services such as camp management, water and sanitation, shelter, legal assistance, food security, and education to those in need. In the field, NRC staff also work on more long-term and sustainable goals such as strengthening protection, preserving the environment, supporting youth and their development, and making sure that gender issues are addressed.
Consequently, the NRC regularly seeks for entry-level and senior professionals to take up aid workers jobs in these fields. The NRC job board is frequently filled with open vacancies such as education assistant, livelihoods project assistant, and shelter manager. Certain positions are open only for national staff in the country where the mission is located, while others are available to international candidates, too. Typically, some work experience in a humanitarian or recovery setting will be needed to qualify for these positions. Knowledge of languages other than English is also welcome.
For more experienced candidates, Norwegian Refugee Council also offers an opportunity to be on a roster for expert deployment capacity call NORCAP. To find out more, click here.
Another expert organization providing assistance and protection for refugees and migrants across the globe is the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). The DRC staff assumes a number of responsibilities in emergency areas, including building shelter, distributing non-food items, and providing medical assistance. The two main fields of assistance the DRC provides fall under the sectors of food security and shelter and non-food items, followed by protection, community infrastructure, and humanitarian mine action.
At any given moment, the DRC advertises multiple aid workers positions on its job board. Qualified professionals are needed as WASH officers, infrastructure coordinators, camp managers, and many others. For many of these positions, the DRC prefers candidates who have had some experience in a humanitarian setting, particularly working with refugees or internally displaced people. Both national and expatriate contracts are offered by this organization. Moreover, the DRC often looks for consultants to work on temporary projects. All applications are done over the DRC’s job platform.
Similarly to the NRC, the Danish Refugee Council runs a Stand-by Roster which is essentially a pool of experienced humanitarian aid professionals from all around the world waiting to be deployed to an international mission on short notice. More information about applying for the roster is available here.
The world’s oldest humanitarian organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is mandated by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to provide assistance to those affected by armed conflicts. Promoting the principles of international humanitarian law, the ICRC has a visible and meaningful presence in every pocket of the world. Since its conception, the organization has grown to work in multiple functional areas such as health, education, the rule of law, and economic security.
The ICRC employs both field and headquarters staff. The majority of the ICRC employees are contracted to work in the field, either through resident, national contracts in countries where the ICRC has a mission or as mobile international staff members. International aid workers change their country of residence with every new mission, while the resident staff members are tied to the country where they were first hired.
Each year, hundreds of aid workers are employed by the ICRC to work in one of the following sectors: protection and detention, health care, water and habitat, economic and food security, armed forces, police and weapon contamination, forensic science, logistics, languages, communication, human resources, and information and communication technology. In addition to a relevant degree, strong motivation to do humanitarian work, and professional experience, it is also desirable that candidates have some international experience before they become ICRC delegates. As far as field interpreters are concerned, formal qualifications are frequently not a requirement for this organization. Field missions typically last up to 2 years with a possibility of renewal.
To apply for an international field position, all interested candidates have to create an account on the ICRC’s job portal. National resident field staff jobs are advertised by national Red Cross offices.
Relief International’s mission is to restore dignity to the most vulnerable communities in the world. This international organization aims to relieve global poverty and it does so by providing communities in many areas with education, water and sanitation, and economic opportunities. Thousands of Relief International’s employees serve more than 5 million beneficiaries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In total, the organization has over 80 unique humanitarian missions in these regions working in areas affected by health issues, migration crisis, conflict, and natural disasters.
Relief International is constantly searching for qualified, passionate and overall extraordinary team members to take up one of the international aid opportunities. A couple of dozens of open vacancies in sectors such as field work, livelihood program management, mental health, and protection can regularly be found available on the Relief International’s job platform. Depending on the position, it is not always essential that the candidate has previously held the same position in an international humanitarian setting, but for more advanced positions, it is certainly an advantage to have prior experience undertaking similar tasks. All applications are submitted via the online platform.
In addition, Relief International administers a Surge Roster consisting of pre-screened humanitarian aid professionals who are ready to be deployed on short-term assignments as a part of an emergency response. Both external and internal candidates are welcome to apply.
Solidarités International is one of the humanitarian organizations which serve the greatest numbers of people in the world. Currently running missions in 16 different countries, this French-originated organization provides services to 4 million people in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Since 1980, Solidarités International’s primary goal has been to provide universal access to drinking water and sanitation to those affected by conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics. Today, the organization has expanded its mandate to not only respond to emergencies by providing water and sanitation facilities but also to combat food insecurity and restore local populations’ economic activities in crisis-affected areas.
At the moment, Solidarités International employs nearly 2,000 professionals working in sectors such as food security, logistics, and water and sanitation promotion. Humanitarian aid workers can join this organization as emergency project managers, field coordinators and officers, WASH coordinators, and logisticians, among others. To be eligible for one of these positions, candidates typically should have some relevant international experience, preferably in a crisis context. The organization also sometimes requires an advanced (Master’s) degree in a relevant subject. Most contracts offered are short-term however renewable if further funding is available. Applications are submitted online and all available vacancies are advertised on the organization’s website.
People in Need is an international organization which was first created in the Czech Republic. The organization’s mission is to provide immediate aid to people affected by a conflict or natural disaster, as well as to any person living in poverty and inhumane living conditions. Since its beginnings, the organization has spread its operations outside Europe in different parts of Africa and Asia, too. People in Need’s work in the field can broadly be categorized as humanitarian aid and development, education and awareness, migration awareness, and social work. In addition, the organization also provides human rights support and prepares a number of publications.
When it comes to humanitarian aid and development, People in Need focuses on both immediate relief and long-term goals by providing emergency preparedness and response, but also fostering education, nutrition security and resilience in a number of countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.
On its website, the organization advertises a number of humanitarian aid worker positions in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh, and Ukraine. Interested professionals can join as shelter/non-food items officers and managers, emergency response coordinators, or WASH program officers. Most of these positions require at least 3 years of relevant work experience in a humanitarian and/or development setting. Candidates can express interest via the organization’s website.
ACTED is one of the most global aid organizations in the world, running nearly 500 humanitarian projects which support 14 million people in need. This organization operates in 37 countries in the world, covering all of the America, and a large number of Asian, African and European countries through its own and its partner organizations’ projects. With a long-term mission to build resilience in vulnerable communities, ACTED responds to humanitarian crises around the world, promoting sustainable growth inclusive to all and supporting civil society initiatives. Some of the major sectors in which ACTED staff is present include resilience building, cash transfer programming, and camp management.
A great number of international staff members are recruited regularly for one of ACTED’s missions. The organization advertises all open vacancies on its career webpage, most of which are to be filled as soon as possible. Typically, ACTED looks for professionals to sign fixed-term six or twelve-month contracts and be deployed urgently. While the most advertised positions are those of project and program officers and managers, ACTED is also in need of experts such as food and security coordinators, as well as livelihood and WASH officers in places like Syria, Yemen, or Iraq. For such expert positions, the organization usually requires that the selected candidate has had some professional experience in a development setting. Knowledge of local languages is a valuable asset.