Working in developing countries and emergencies

Combining research and practical aid, working in developing countries (international development) provides much needed support to people living in the developing world. This can range from humanitarian work to construction of infrastructure and emergency response. Put plainly, it’s looking into issues or problems and deriving solutions for developing nations.

There are several organisations within International Development that are worth looking into; some are charities, some are not-for-profit organisations. Beyond that, there are government departments and even elements of the United Nations such as UNICEF, UNIDO and The World Health Organisation that are involved. As such, it’s not just big charities that are making a difference – there are multiple organisations working to make real-world changes.

How does the WHO work? How does it reconcile the diverse interests of 191 sovereign member states—plus those of the multinational corporations that lobby it, the numerous NGOs with which it interacts, and the enormous international secretariat that services it—in the search for effective solutions to the myriad problems it confronts daily? Find jobs within to find out, or send us a message to see how we can help.

Types of International Development organisations that may be of interest:


Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

Government development departments

United Nations organisations

Universities and academic research

Think tanks


What opportunities are there?

Healthcare professionals are needed for:

  • Emergency relief

  • Developing and building medical infrastructures

  • Running clinics

  • Medical education programmes

Andrew McConnell/Panos for DFID -

Staff are often needed at short notice and to work in challenging environments. Projects can be from around six months to three years. You would normally need two to three years’ postgraduate medical training and some projects may prefer higher speciality trainees.

There are various organisations that recruit doctors to work in developing countries. The support provided can include:

  • Pre-departure training

  • Monthly allowances

  • Accommodation

  • Flights

  • Insurance

  • Pension payments

  • Membership fee payments and maintaining journal subscriptions

What skills and qualities do I need?

  • The capacity to adapt to a different environment and culture and to work in a multi-disciplinary team (previous experience of living abroad will be helpful)

  • Languages, particularly Spanish and French

  • Administrative skills and teaching and leadership experience are useful in roles that often have a wider remit and more responsibilities than

Disasters are difficult to understand. When they occur, people often ask: Why did this happen? This question can be especially unsettling for disaster relief workers who have seen the effects and been involved with the catastrophe firsthand. After returning home, it may help to keep in mind the following tips from SAMHSA’s National Mental Health Information Center on understanding the effects of a disaster:

  • No one who sees a disaster is untouched by it.

  • It is normal to feel sadness, grief, and anger about what happened and what you saw.

  • It is also natural to feel anxious about your safety and the safety of your family.

  • Acknowledging your feelings will help you move forward more quickly.

  • Focusing on your contributions, strengths, and abilities can help you heal if you are troubled by what you experienced.

  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping. This is normal.

  • It is healthy to reach out for and accept help if you need it.

Individuals involved in international development work alongside people in the developing world in many fields. Roles within these fields are varied, covering finance, administration, counselling, advocacy, legal work etc. Many different organisations are involved in International Development from the UN and the World Bank to small non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in countries all around the world. It is important to consider whether you would want to be based in the field or working at head office /regional offices. Types of roles to consider include practitioner (offering skills from a profession such as teaching, engineering etc.), working on policy development and programmes administration, advisory roles in the field, or advocating, campaigning and lobbying for a cause and seeking financial and practical assistance.

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