UNHCR work in the field can sometimes be routine, but it often becomes crisis work. Staff at all levels in UNHCR tend to be highly-motivated individuals who are deeply committed to humanitarian work. However, although they may be technically proficient in various specialized skills, they often have little preparation for the effects of an emergency situation or, as in some camps, a continuous crisis atmosphere.
Accumulated stress affects not only personal morale and individual performance, but also organizational effectiveness. When the effects of stress are unrecognized and become negative, work suffers. Not only is there loss of productivity, but the staff member may become so frustrated that he/she will leave the field, embittered and critical of the organization and filled with a sense of personal failure.
This type of reaction is often referred to as "burnout" and the main purpose of this guide is to help you, as a team manager:
• to be aware of the potential stress risks;
• to learn how to help your staff work through a crisis in order to avoid breakdowns in functioning at both personal and organizational levels.
A disaster situation is an overwhelming experience for all involved and victims are not limited to those who are immediately recognisable as refugees. The latter are, of course, the direct victims of the situation; families left behind and others close to the refugees being indirect victims. UNHCR staff, because of the stress they absorb, fall into a third category of "hidden victims".