World Health Day 2018
News & community - Update

Humanitarian Travel Tips – How to Manage Health Risks

As a humanitarian aid worker, you will be traveling to some of the most impoverished and dangerous areas of the world. Most of the time you will be traveling overseas to provide aid in areas subjected to natural disaster or war. 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. You may be more directly exposed to the local population and have less-secure lodgings. If you are traveling in the aftermath of a natural disaster, you may have to contend with floodwater, debris, and other hazards. Therefore, proper pre-travel precautions are even more essential, and here are some tips to maintain your own health during the time you spend rendering assistance to those in need:

Pre-travel Care

As soon as possible, schedule a visit with a travel medicine specialist who can provide vaccines, medicines, and advice on how to stay safe and healthy while you are traveling. You should also plan a visit to your regular doctor to make sure you’re physically fit for the demands of the work. Aid work can be demanding, and medical facilities in disaster areas are often limited. Therefore, you need to be physically and mentally in good shape since you will be traveling to an area where people suffer from many hardships.

Avoiding Injury in a Disaster Area

Injuries and motor vehicle accidents are common risks anywhere in the world. Use safe transportation and be sensitive to possible physical dangers such as debris, unstable buildings, and downed power lines. In a conflict area, be aware of landmines and other explosive hazards.

What to Pack

Humanitarian aid workers often need to pack more than other travelers, especially if they are going to be in an area where supplies are scarce and the water supply is limited. In addition to your travel health kit, consider whether you might need any of the following:

  • First-aid supplies
  • Water filter or purification tablets
  • Nonperishable food
  • Gloves (rubber or leather)
  • Bed net (in areas with malaria)
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses
  • Toilet paper
  • Sewing kit
  • Laundry detergent
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Candles and matches or lighter
  • Zip-top bags
  • Safety goggles

Humanitarian aid work is stressful, and taking along a personal item, such as a family photo, can be comforting. You should also bring photocopies of important documents such as your passport and medical license.

When You Return

When you return from your aid work and you were injured or sick during your trip, you should seek medical care upon your return. Make sure your local doctor knows that you recently returned from doing humanitarian aid work overseas. More than 30% of aid workers report depression after returning home, so take time to rest and re-adjust to your environment. If you continue to feel depressed, you may wish to seek counseling.

If you want to know more about traveling and health risks, please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions and can advise you what precautions you need to take.