Inside stories from Alistair Short, Cluster Coordinator in South Sudan.

Post date Tuesday, 3 March, 2020 - 14:04

First of all, what does the Cluster do?

The Global Food Security Cluster coordinates the food security response in humanitarian crises. We make sure that limited resources are distributed fairly, we engage with donors and we monitor situations across regions and countries. Basically, we ensure that when an emergency hits, there is sufficient food available and accessible to everyone who needs it.

What does your day to day work involve?

My rhythm is to wake up early and do some yoga. I live in a wooden hut surrounded by beautiful mountains that is just a short walk from the UN compound.

Most of my days are spent out and about meeting with other UN agencies, NGO partners and government officials. Some days I head to the field on assessment missions. WFP works in 79 counties in South Sudan, each with a different and changing context in terms of land use, economy and conflict, so there are many areas to visit and check that everything is running smoothly. Recently we’ve been assessing the flooding in the areas of Pibor and Maiwut - interviewing those most affected and making sure resources are evenly distributed.

By the end of each day I’m pretty tired but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still have to pinch myself that this is what I get to do every day!

Alistair Short Cluster Coordinator South Sudan

What does it take to be a Cluster Coordinator?

It requires stamina, enthusiasm, infinite patience and diplomatic skills. But most of all it is purposeful - it must be to keep me away from my wife and kids! By purposeful I mean that it gives me direction, meaning and fulfilment in my life, a higher purpose than just earning a living. Ultimately, it's an immense privilege to do the work we do in the fascinating places where we work.

What about life outside of work?

There is a great rapport amongst colleagues – bringing together a rich mix of personalities and strong social connections. I miss this greatly whenever I spend too long back in England. There are plenty of opportunities to run and play sport to reduce my stress levels. And I am so grateful for my colleagues who provide invaluable support throughout the year.

What is the situation in South Sudan like at the moment?

Since I arrived in South Sudan the key word has been ‘unprecedented’ – levels of food insecurity, famine for the first time since 1998, the longest extended cholera outbreak, the highest recorded cereal gap and most recently 40-year high flooding levels (comparable only to 1964 and 1932). This is sad and traumatic for a local population brutalized by recurrent shocks and conflict for the past four decades.

But it does provide an adrenalin rush to focus the mind. It greatly reminds us all why we are here. It is an immense privilege to work in the humanitarian and development sector and to somehow make a difference to people’s lives.

Alistair Short
Cluster Coordinator South Sudan

Go to South Sudan webpage