Red Cross aid worker is on a mission
A 28-year career with the New Zealand Red Cross has seen Onehunga humanitarian aid worker Judy Owen undertake 17 missions over 79 months in 15 countries.
Judy has recently returned from her latest mission, a 12-month deployment to Sudan, where she worked as a nurse.
Based in Zalingei, Judy worked in rural areas of Darfur and camps for internally displaced people providing basic health care and implementing immunisation clinics.
Judy says in Zalingei the normal population of 40,000 has swelled to more than 140,000 as people have fled their homes and taken refuge in camps in the region.
During her mission Judy was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross – one of only a few humanitarian organisations working in rural and isolated areas of Darfur.
“It was a tough mission but the staff and people were good. Security was the biggest issue with the regular threat of looting and violence,” she says.
Life for those in the camps is hard, says Judy. All have been forced from their homes and incomes.
In the camps there are few employment opportunities, leaving those there reliant on aid for health care and food.
“My heart goes out to people there who are living in it day to day. They want to go back to their villages but it is not safe,” says Judy.
During her career with New Zealand Red Cross Judy has worked as a nurse in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Uganda and Indonesia.
Her first mission was in 1980 when she was deployed to Thailand for three months.
New Zealand Red Cross, as part of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, supports 24 humanitarian aid workers around the world.
New Zealand Red Cross’ international aid worker programme is supported by NZAID, the government’s international aid agency.
Good deeds: New Zealand Red Cross aid worker Judy Owen, left, in Sudan with fellow aid worker Felicity Gapes.