Interview with Anna Soravito, Cameroon mission leader

Anna Soravito, Première Urgence Internationale’s Cameroon mission leader, will soon be leaving her post. She tells us here about the experience she has had.Anna Soravito, Première Urgence Internationale’s Cameroon mission leader, will soon be leaving her post.

Cameroon mission leader

She tells us here about the experience she has had.This was the first time that Anna has been a mission leader. It has been her first experience in the emergency sector. In fact, Anna has a background in development.

Anna, you will soon be leaving your job of cameroon mission leader, which you have held since february 2016. What have been the best things about this job?

This job is extremely varied, with plenty of challenges and difficulties but also positive surprises. The environment in Cameroon is particularly interesting because the country is suffering from two distinct crises: one that lingers on in Central Africa, and another raging in the Lake Chad area. These two crises are quite different. The needs of each and the resulting types of work are also very different. Our mission in Cameroon is varied because we are working in different contexts. We are carrying out work in refugee camps but also outside, with the host community.

With this in mind, we are using an integrated approach, which is unique to Première Urgence Internationale. In actual fact, we are doing very different types of work simultaneously:

  • Managing refugee camps
  • Building and repairing
  • Food security
  • Work on water, hygiene and sanitation.

We have some great expertise in water, hygiene and sanitation on this mission and we are using it to carry out projects responding to urgent needs.

Emergency, resilience, post-emergency and development

In parallel, we are supporting local authorities to ensure that they take control of these issues. It is important to build a connection between emergency and development. In the country, we are implementing projects with the aim of responding just to emergencies. We are also developing resilience and post-emergency projects, and even development projects in conjunction with local authorities, for more structural results.

Our work on water, hygiene and sanitation is a perfect example.In Cameroon, we are also working with local organisations and groups who need training to increase their capacities. We are sharing our knowledge with them, particularly in terms of organisation. Projects range from short term: 9 months to a year, or more long term, over several years, which help us to commit more sustainably.Lastly, this year we have started working together with other NGOs. This is a challenge but it means sharing our experiences, standardising procedures and better coordination between humanitarian workers.

Could you tell us a little about the Cameroon mission?

Next year, we will be celebrating Première Urgence Internationale’s 10 years in the country. These years of work help us to have a good understanding of the context and of the authorities. We know the east of the country very well, in particular Adamawa. This mission has grown a lot since 2015, particularly with work starting in the far north of the country, in Maroua at the end of 2015 and in Kousseri last April.

What has been the most rewarding thing for you on this mission?

Straightaway I am thinking of the great skills of our Cameroonian teams and their commitment, which is really lovely. These people have so many great qualities and they are a force to be reckoned with.

How would you describe your life as an expatriate in Cameroon?

As mission leader, I had the good luck of being based in Yaounde where life is very pleasant and the living conditions are good. Even though the areas we are working in are complicated, particularly in terms of safety, I was privileged, living in the capital city. Above all I could have humanitarian involvement while having a normal family life.

What challenges will meet the mission leader who takes on the baton when you leave?

We are working towards the implementation of a pilot project for a rapid response to emergencies. This sort of project has already been carried out in other contexts and it will need to be adapted for Cameroon. The next mission leader will also need to face the challenge of growth, and ensure that this mission, which has grown a lot recently, is well structured and sustainable. Lastly, Première Urgence Internationale has a strong regional foothold there and we are looking at cross-border collaboration with the Première Urgence Internationale missions in Nigeria and in the Central African Republic. Which will be, I think, extremely interesting!

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