How To Be Part Of The UNHCR Medical Staff

March 14, 2014

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established to assist and protect the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, displaced and stateless people around the world. The organisation’s aim is to ensure that every individual’s right to seek asylum and find refuge in another state is protected and exercised.

Very often, either due to a natural disaster or political unrest, people are mass evacuated or seek refuge by the hundreds or thousands which require not only housing but also food, water and medical care. In these cases, one of the organisation’s goals involves placing refugees in temporary housing units or camps before they are relocated to another country or returned to their homeland voluntarily and safely.

Time for surgery at Morogoro Regional What it’s like to work with the UNHCR

Working with the UNHCR is not for the faint hearted. The staff works tireless to beat the odds under the most extenuating circumstance. To be a part of this organisation, you have to be dedicated and highly motivated to the cause. The job requires logistics expertise, medical proficiency, dedication to social work and some knowledge in international politics and practices.

As a part of the UNHCR, you will be working in some of the most troubled areas of the world, beset by civil wars and natural calamities. You will face small or large groups of people who may be injured as casualties of these wars and natural disasters. You will have to help provide medical services at refugee camps in conditions that are less than ideal. If you are looking for a place in the UNHCR as a medical professional, you have to be ready to do your best despite ongoing supply shortages and lack of modern medical devices.

You should also expect to be assigned to different locations around the world where your help and expertise are needed most. The UNHCR staff operates in 120 countries around the world where cultures and languages may be totally different from yours. Accommodations will be far from luxurious and food choices will be down to basic provisions.

Despite the many hardships, the experience and the immense satisfaction that you get from helping others in such dire circumstances is like no other.

Joining the UNHCR Medical Team

Applicants are required to have an advanced university degree for the position you are applying for. Depending on the circumstances, some applicants can be accepted with a first-level degree plus qualifying work experience. The same however, does not apply for medical doctors applying for MD positions at the UNHCR or any agency connected to the United Nations.

To work as a medical doctor at the UNHCR, you will need specialised studies and an advanced university degree that cannot be substituted with a first level degree and work experience. You would need to be fluent in either English or French which are the two official languages used at the United Nations. Knowledge in any of the other official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish) are a plus.

The UNHCR accepts young university graduates in their Junior Professional Officers (JPO) program. This is the first step for graduates to gain exposure in the field or at the Geneva headquarters. Most JPOs are assigned to positions for 2 to 4 years before being moved up to higher levels. Applicants are usually in the age range of 25 to 32 years and must have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in the field they are applying for. University students are also given a chance to serve as interns.