How Important Are National Staff?
Kate Mort is an MSF-USA Field Human Resources Officer.
National staff is crucial to every MSF project; they are at the core of everything we do. National staff makes up around 90 percent of all MSF field workers, so they do most of the nuts-and-bolts work that keeps our projects running.
Generalizing is hard, because every situation is different. For example, South Sudan is a very challenging place to find people with the necessary training and expertise. I’ve worked in South Sudan a few times, most recently in 2012. The population has had very limited access to education because of decades of war. There simply aren’t many medically qualified people. In many projects in South Sudan, we train the staff ourselves— which also means we have to send more international staff to work in those projects.
With staffing, it’s all about context. And the individual. When I was in South Sudan in 2004, there was an enormously enthusiastic, motivated, and intelligent guy who started as a cleaner. Over the years, he was promoted to working in the pharmacy, working on pharmacy management, working with dispensing medication and patient care. Eventually, he became a medical officer.