Session description

In its third Online Learning Session on Trends and Challenges of Humanitarian Action, Professor Alastair Ager gave a presentation on psychology, trauma, and staff wellness in humanitarian action. This session focused on the following:

  • Stressors in humanitarian work and their effects.
  • Organizational factors influencing the impact of stressors.
  • The effect of anxiety and burnout on humanitarian effectiveness.
  • The differences between local and international staff in terms of stressors faced in their work.

The session was followed by a live online consultation event on staff wellness and humanitarian effectiveness.


Alastair Ager Alastair Ager is the Director of the Institute for International Health & Development at QMU, Edinburgh and Professor of Population & Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. He has worked in the field of international development – with a focus on refugees and internally displaced communities - for twenty-five years, after originally training in psychology at the universities of Keele, Wales and Birmingham in the UK. He has wide international experience across sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, Europe and North America, having worked as a consultant for agencies including UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, World Vision, Oxfam and Child Fund International. He is author of over one hundred scholarly publications, including papers in the Journal of Refugee Studies and the Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, the edited volume Refugees: Perspectives on the Experience of Forced Migration (Continuum) and, with Joey Ager, the forthcoming Faith, Secularism and Humanitarian Engagement (Palgrave). He has published widely on the well-being of humanitarian workers, including a longitudinal study of the adjustment of expatriate workers, studies of national staff in Uganda. Sri Lanka and Jordan, and a recent analysis of the narratives of workers deployed with MSF.

Event host

Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)

Target audience

Humanitarian practitioners as well as others with a professional or general interest in humanitarian action.


PHAP members will have the possibility to undergo a two-part assessment after the session as part of the PHAP Continuous Learning Credits framework.

Part 1: Comprehension check

Part 2: Written reflection

To encourage peer learning among members, selected essay responses will also be published on the website, if approved by the writer. As a member, you can comment on the responses and read other members' comments.

Read the written reflections


Session recording (YouTube - faster loading time)

Session recording (Adobe Connect - higher quality)

Note: The Adobe Connect recording also includes the panel discussion following the presentation.


Session recording - downloadable audio podcast