UNDAC Dispatch, December 2023: UNDAC Members Spotlight – Silva Lauffer from Germany

UNDAC Member speaking to community members of Kalima Village.
© Kimmo Tuominen

Dear Readers, embark with me on a 22-year journey alongside OCHA and 13 years with UNDAC — an odyssey brimming with challenges and triumphs. In Geneva, my journey unfolded —a crash course in civil-military coordination in 2002, guided by the seasoned Ross Mountain. Little did I know, it was the prologue to a narrative filled with unpredictability and collaboration.

Fast forward to the devastating Haiti earthquake in January 2010, responding alongside British medical staff in our ‘Wimbledon’ field hospital, as part of Merlin’s staff. Being available for UNDAC deployment means being ready for anything – a rollercoaster ride in hurricane-struck Barbuda during a rapid field assessment, or in Malawi, amid floods, we orchestrated cluster meetings in Chikwawa — a symphony of coordination, quick thinking, and decisive action to navigate the ever-changing tempo of disaster response. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, during a volcanic eruption, became a narrative of diplomacy working alongside environmental experts, defying the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic brought along.

Outside my primary role at RKI’s Center of International Health Protection in Germany, where I manage the preparedness and operations support unit, I also, with RKI and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ blessing, co-facilitate UNDAC’s Advisory Board meetings and mentor in various trainings.

Being part of UNDAC is like joining an ensemble — a diverse group contributing unique skills and backgrounds. Coordination and relationship-building is our recurring theme, and our broad skill set sets us apart. UNDAC doesn’t take over; it supports. Our actions are rooted in humanitarian principles – humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence – guiding us through the ethical quagmire of disaster response.

My international operations journey began in 2000, navigating challenges in Viqueque, Timor Leste alongside UNTAET, then Serbia and then managing a regional field office with focus on safety and security of staff in Northern Uganda during LRA attacks. Thereafter, I engaged in a Master in Strategic Affairs, in Canberra, before assisting the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Latin America in fighting organised crime and subsequently helping RedR UK to strengthen their earthquake response in Pakistan’s NWFP province and Kashmir, then in Darfur and Sri Lanka.

Each deployment shaped my perspective, reinforcing the importance of structured and effective interventions with a need for joint action and a reminder that during it all, we need to ensure an environmentally friendly and home-population appropriate approach. Thank you, and here’s to UNDAC, our shared mission, and the indomitable spirit propelling us forward into a future where international solidarity becomes the linchpin of our collective humanity.

Silva Lauffer in Kalima Village. Photo by Kimmo Tuominen.