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Spotlight on: Rita Rasoa Sakari

Rita is a distance learning student, studying for a MSc in Public Health. She is also a Student Liaison Officer for the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre.
Rita says: "Health, humanitarian and development issues are complex, but it is this factor that fuels me to advocate for women and children’s health and human rights."

I decided to become a Student Liaison Officer for the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre (HHCC) because I was interested in getting involved and developing new collaborations both internally and externally to LSHTM. 

I have an immense passion for health and development issues, particularly affecting women. There is an ardency that has been further amplified in the past year while volunteering with UN OCHA as a humanitarian researcher in the ongoing Tigray crisis in Ethiopia. 

Students across the planet

As a distance learning student, it can sometimes feel quite isolating, but as a Student Liaison Officer, I hope to create more engaging opportunities for distance learning students like myself that are more convenient, for example creating a blog with external partners where LSHTM students could collaborate with students from partnering institutions on writing articles on humanitarian health issues. 

It has only been a few months since my enrolment for the master’s programme in October 2021, but since then my experience with distance learning has vacillated. 

“Normal” human-to-human connection can feel very distant, but it’s been amazing being part of a diverse class of students across the planet in varying specialisms and professions; and alongside us, the dedicated tutors who guide us through each hurdle, especially statistics which, if you’re like me, is a persistent headache! 

Humanitarian issues are complex

Health, humanitarian and development issues are complex, but it is this factor that fuels me to advocate for women and children’s health and human rights. Observing the trend in developing countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa it has become notable that humanitarian crises are the norm; a situation that is beyond upsetting. 

In 2021, I was privileged enough to be part of multiple teams working to counter these issues. At UNDP Yemen, I collaborated with diverse UN Volunteers to pioneer a Digital Humanitarian Support (DHS) project. This was a telehealth innovation, with the aim of creating accessible and critical healthcare services aimed at the most affected populations, especially pregnant women and children. These groups have often been the primary victims of the malnutrition epidemic in Yemen that has affected millions and is still ongoing. 

I also worked with an organisation in Cameroon, developing new strategies to tackle refugee assistance, a situation driven by the ongoing Anglophone crisis in the Northern and Southern parts of the country and the Lake Chad Basin Crisis in the region.

Committed to working for the health of women and children

At UN OCHA, my team and I conducted the first Situation Awareness and Analysis (SAA) project in Ethiopia to analyse the Tigray crisis that has been ongoing for a year. I collected qualitative data on different sub-categories on the main drivers and effects of the crisis – data that would be used to inform future strategic planning and response within the UN agencies.

I hope to utilise skills gained through my studies to continue ground-breaking work on health and development issues affecting women and children in developing countries and particularly sub-Saharan Africa. 

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