Mustafa Hassan : I see this nomination as an opportunity to highlight the work of humanitarian workers all over the world.
Mustafa, we are indeed very pleased to interview you our in Faces From Sudan series following the announcement of your name by Times Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people around the world ! You must be very pleased indeed.
At first, we would like to know a little bit about you, how would you best describe yourself?
I am a person who tries to do his job as best as he could. My work centers on protecting children and providing humanitarian aid services to those in need especially women and children who usually are the most affected during conflict situations.
My educational background is varied, I have studied political sciences at the University of Khartoum, class of 1987 and I have further pursed studies in human rights and civil society.
I have worked for several years in the humanitarian field back in Nyala, with Save the Children until they halted their operations in Sudan and in IDP camps as a Child Protection officer with ICRC and UNICEF.
In 2007, I joined TDH as an Assistant Project Manager and shortly promoted as Project Manager before moving to Sirilanka to take up the post of TDH Child Protection Program Advisore in 2009 and later in 2011 as the Country Director for one year. I returned to Sudan for a short term consultancy with TDH before moving to Kenya also with TDH and worked there until February 2014.
In 2014, I joined the International Rescue Committee IRC in Amman where I am currently managing a child protection project in Zaatari and Azraq camps for Syrian refugees.
What do you consider to be your most valued contribution to your work in the humanitarian field both in Sudan and then in Syria ?
My job focuses primarily on identifying unaccompanied and separated children and ensuring that they are provided with family care either by reunifying them with family members or placing them under alternative care. You see the trauma which they have been through is huge and their presence within a family context is essential for their stabilization.
Children fleeing from the conflict arrive first in the reception areas where that are divided based on gender. We then register the child and check his background to see if there is any possibility of uniting him with his/her family- if not we then start looking for a matching family from our records.
At an earlier stage, we have already mapped the existing number of foster families available in the camps and we divided them according to their willingness to foster young girls or boys or foster more than one child. Following this classification of families, it became much easier for us to match the new arrivals with potential hosts.
The next stage after the placement of the children with their foster families, is visiting them in their new homes to assess their situation; i.e. their level of acceptance to their new surroundings etc... We are indeed making quite a difference in these children’s lives.
What do you want to be most remembered for?
I always remember the famous quote of Martin Luther King Jr. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well”. This is how I would like to be remembered for.”
I believe that I along with my colleagues have done our best with the available resources and power available to us to ensure quality services are provided for those in need.
I am also proud that many of those who worked with me as colleagues or supervisees managed to pursue a successful career and just feeling that I have a tiny influence that contributed to their success makes me proud and I wish to be remembered for that.
How did you first learn about your recent nomination to be one of the Times Magazine 100 most influential people?
I received an email from the TIMES informing me through the organization about my selection and asking me to confirm attending the gala dinner in New York. I was not aware of the nomination before. I honestly did not think much of it at the beginning and thought that it must be a joke! My family and friends have been extremely pleased with this nomination. It took some time for me to have come in terms with it.
How did that make you feel?
I never believed that I am eligible for such nomination and I strongly believe that there are so many people in the humanitarian field who deserve it more than I do. I have seen so many real heroes in this field who are more worthy of such nomination.
However, I see this nomination as an opportunity to highlight the work of the wonderful team I lead in the camps of Syrian refugees in Jordan and the entire work of humanitarian workers all over the world. But more importantly to remind the world of the dire situations of the Syrian refugees in particular and all those affected by armed conflicts and natural disasters.
From a humanitarian perspective, what are the opportunities and challenges for improving humanitarian and development services for refugees in Syria and other places which you have worked in ?
Unfortunately we often face what is known as the “Donor’s fatigue” which means that any prolonged humanitarian situation faces serious reduction in funding from year to year. We have started to see recently that all complex emergencies are taking decades without a predictable future solution.
Take a look around the world and you will see that Somalia is entering already onto its 3rd decade and the Darfurian crisis is over 12 years now. For Syria in particular we are entering onto the 5th year now without any signs of a breakthrough in any of the peace initiatives so far. With time people start forgetting those affected by those prolonged conflicts and it becomes a normal piece of news gradually falling from the headlines to the back pages of the newspapers.
We need to make sure that those living in the conflict zones under all kinds of risks and those who fled their place of origin seeking refuge within or outside the boarders of their countries are not forgotten.
In terms of working with those affected by the conflicts there is a need to ensure that the quality of services provided is up to the humanitarian standards. The most important step is to stop considering refugees and internally displaced persons as helpless victims and pay more attention to the requirement of meaningful involvement of the recipients of humanitarian aid in decision making starting from assessment up to evaluation. Being accountable to the people we serve is vital.
Lessons learnt from the past?
As mentioned, moving towards genuine “community participation” in what we do and ensuring that we are accountable not only to donors, governments and our own organizations but also to the people we are hired to serve. To start with, limit the use of words like “victims” and “vulnerable” in the humanitarian literature would be a good start.
Are you thinking of going back to Sudan ? How do you see Sudan in the year 2030 ?
My stay outside Sudan is temporary and is work related but Sudan remains my home. It is hard however to predict where I am heading next given the type of jobs that people like me do.
What are your dreams, aspirations for Sudan?
My dream is to see peace and democracy in Sudan. For the war to stop and for those in the refugee camps, internally displaced or scattered all around the world to have the opportunity to choose freely to return back to their homes and rebuild their country