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What NGOs are looking for in a Humanitarian Aid Worker

Humanitarian aid workers deliver much-needed help to those in need. They often travel internationally to do so. As a result, some perceive the work to be a luxurious getaway. However, it’s much more than just travel. Humanitarians need the right skills to deliver aid. So what do NGOs look for in a humanitarian aid worker?

Problem Solving

One of the first skills a humanitarian needs is problem-solving. In some jobs, it’s enough to follow assigned tasks. But humanitarians face difficult situations daily when they are in the field. Many of the problems are new and cannot be simulated in a classroom. So solving issues quickly and efficiently is an important skill for an aid worker.


Aid workers don’t have the luxury of waiting to be told what to do and when. Things in the field change fast, particularly in an emergency. And management already has a lot on their plate. So taking the initiative is an important skill that NGOs look for in humanitarians.

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Effective Communication

Humanitarians work in multicultural, multi-country settings every day. They also face emergencies and work in conflict zones. All of these conditions require excellent communication skills, both verbal and written. One wrong conversation or e-mail can ruin a relationship with a coworker, especially across cultural lines. And even more importantly, poor communication under pressure can put lives at risk.

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Analytical Skills

Humanitarian and development work has to do with people and helping improve their lives. There are a lot of aspects to consider for decision-making and implementation. The good news is that today a lot of information is available. However, it is still key to be able to analyze this information and make the right decisions based on it. That’s why analytical skills are key for humanitarian aid workers.


When you are in the field, it’s possible to find yourself in a situation you never expected. Sometimes, the resources around you are also different from what one might anticipate. When this happens, creativity is key to come up with unexpected solutions. At the same time, humanitarians also often must be creative with budgets and spending, since most rely on donor funding.

Ability to follow rules

Initiative, problem-solving and creativity are all key skills for aid workers. But so is the ability to follow the rules. Many missions rely on security rules to ensure that no one gets hurt. At the same time, there is an essential need for planning and reporting. Often a conflicting mix of skills, NGOs require their staff to adhere to company rules and standards, particularly when in the field.

Capacity to work under pressure

When disaster strikes, things happen quickly. Stress levels rise, and people must work under tight timelines. NGOs need to have aid workers who can work under pressure, without losing their temper and capacity.


The best way to achieve real results is by working in a team. This means co-workers, but also communities, beneficiaries, donors, and partner organizations. Collaboration is a key skill for humanitarian aid workers. They must be able to leverage their skills and abilities with others to optimize implementation.


It’s hard to predict where aid will be needed next. Sometimes it might be a modern city, but often it’s in rural areas in a remote village. And humanitarians must deliver aid where it is needed most. So they must be adaptable to different circumstances to provide help. NGOs tend to look for workers who can adapt to not only different physical environments, but also a variety of cultures and realities.


Lastly, but also most importantly, humanitarians must have compassion. The reason most humanitarians do what they do is principally rooted in compassion. The field of humanitarian aid is not an easy one. Workers are exposed to a lot of stress and often witness extreme situations. To continue delivering aid, they must have compassion and humanity.

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