Next generation aid worker academy set to open doors

Global charity Save the Children is set to open the first of 10 humanitarian training centres to boost understaffed crisis response teams

A global charity is set to open the first of 10 humanitarian training centres in the autumn, in a bid to boost understaffed crisis response teams who face a rising number of complex global disasters.

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA), spearheaded by charity Save the Children, aims to train 100,000 people from 50 countries by 2020 to teach them to save lives and get food, water and shelter urgently to those hit by natural disasters or conflict. The academy hopes to train 4,520 individuals globally in its first year, including plans to start operations in the Middle East, with a centre in the region open by July 2016. The precise location of the Middle East centre is still undecided.

“At the moment there are about 450,000 humanitarian [workers] in the world,” said Laura Jump, acting head of business development, Humanitarian Leadership Academy. “But with the number of crises taking place, we need a much larger number than that.”

There has never been more need for a growing pool of humanitarian leaders and responders, said the charity. Some 42,500 people were displaced every day in 2014 because of conflict, persecution or violence, 10,300 more each day than the previous year, according to the UN.

The academy, which became operational in July, will open its first regional training centre in the Philippines in November and another in Kenya by January 2016. In its first five-year phase, HLA plans to set up a network of 10 regional training centres spanning Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The centres will offer project management and leadership training, advice on how to prepare for crises in disaster-prone areas, as well as share advice from previous emergencies for locals who are often the first people on the scene.

“The reality is when a disaster strikes, the first person who responds is your next door neighbour or a colleague or family member, rather than someone who has flown in [to help],” said Jump. “It is those first 24 to 48 hours where you can really save lives.”

Development workers on the ground are often called on to become humanitarian workers in a crisis, but the skills they need are quite different and just providing simple advice gleaned from previous disasters would help individuals enormously, according to Jump.

“It is really difficult when you have very passionate people working together but at very fast pace,” said Jump. “Management skills [are critical] too. Often people in our sector are promoted as technical experts or because they’ve done a certain number of years in a role and actually becoming a manager requires quite a specific skillset, particularly if you’re talking about a humanitarian crisis where it is very task focused and everything is needed now.”

The academy has received £20.75m out of the £50m ($77.5m) it needs to run for five years from the UK, Norway and a philanthropist. HLA is in talks with governments, foundations and corporations, including in the Middle East, for further funding. If current talks come to fruition, it would fund the academy for its first two years, according to Jump.