For women aid workers, health care often a 'compromise'

By Amy Lieberman 12 April 2016

Two health extension workers at the Endamarian Health Post in Tigray, Ethiopia pack up their kits in prepration for the long walk to the villages they support. Photo by: Kelly Ramundo / USAID / CC BY-NC

While pregnant with her daughter, Ghilda Chrabieh worked for Mercy Corps in Rwanda, Syria and the Philippines, among other countries, before giving birth to her baby in Canada. Chrabieh relied on her doctor back home in Lebanon and stayed in regular touch via WhatsApp.

Now, Chrabieh is based full time in Nigeria as Mercy Corps director of humanitarian programs. She still relies on apps like Viber and WhatsApp to talk with her gynecologist and her nearly 2-year-old daughter’s pediatrician. Otherwise, she tends to watch and wait it out when she sees her baby develop a rash, for example, and she always returns to Nigeria with a cache of birth control pills.

“Obviously it is not easy. It is very tough, and sometimes it was like, ‘I just want to go home right now,’ but then, I signed up for the work,” said Chrabieh, recalling her experience with her pregnancy. “I don’t know if compromise is the right word but it is the only thing I can think of. It is a question of managing expectations.”

Aid workers linked to major organizations have the benefit of health insurance and steady salaries that allow them to seek health care, when needed, outside of their host countries. But female expatriate aid workers based in developing countries without quality health care services may face many of the same problems that local women face throughout their lives, like lack of nearby access to safe abortions or pre- and postnatal care.

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About the author

Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.

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