Category Archives: Kenya

The Possibilities and Limitations of Discourses on Stress and Burnout among Aid Workers in Kenya

2016-08-26 13.19.36Gemma Houldey // Development Studies // 21st March 2018 // 1-2pm // Arts C133
It is widely recognised that humanitarian workers are likely to suffer from severe forms of stress. A survey of aid workers conducted by the Guardian newspaper in 2015 found that approximately twenty per cent of their 754 self-selected respondents had suffered from PTSD and panic attacks, whilst forty four per cent suffered from depression. Academic studies addressing the health and wellbeing of aid workers have referred to the increasing instances of burnout in both national and international staff working in emergency settings (Cardozo et al., 2005; Eriksson et al., 2009). However these sorts of findings often give insufficient attention to the diversity of the aid sector; the fact that, for instance, approximately ninety per cent of its professionals are nationals from the global south. Using the examples of national and international aid workers I spoke to during a year of field research in Kenya, I will highlight that an aid worker’s identity, including their professional identity in the workplace and the socio-cultural context in which they operate, has implications for the way they conceptualise, articulate and respond to emotional challenges in their lives.
Gemma Houldey conducted one year of field research in Kenya for her Development Studies Phd, investigating how identity shapes the way aid workers understand and manage stress. She has worked in the aid sector for 15 years, for international NGOs including Christian Aid, War on Want and Amnesty International, and for national NGOs in Uganda and Palestine.