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OCHA aid worker receives ‘hero’ award from UN Foundation

25 Nov 2019


Left to right: Shameza Abdulla, UNICEF; Bashar Alhrout, World Food Programme; Maria Clara Martin, UNHCR; Melissa Fleming, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications; and Godelieve Sipula, OCHA, at the 2019 United Nations Foundation award celebration. Credit: United Nations Foundation/Diane Bondareff

For more than 20 years, the United Nations Foundation has held an annual Global Leadership celebration to recognize individuals and organizations working to promote the values of the UN and help build a better world. At this year’s event, held this week in New York City, Godelieve Sipula, a National Professional Officer in the OCHA Country Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was honoured in the UN Heroes category for her efforts in negotiating humanitarian access in areas where others could not.

As a result of Sipula’s negotiation skills and sensitization of the militias on international humanitarian law, as well as the protection of civilians, more than 600,000 people, mostly women and children living in the towns of Manono, Mitwapa and Pweto – popularly known as the “Triangle of Death” – have been able to receive emergency assistance from the UN and non-governmental groups. Sipula negotiated access with leaders of militia groups in those towns, which are characterized by numerous humanitarian needs, including high rates of malnutrition, displacement, and measles and cholera outbreaks. 

“Humanitarian access is a core part of our day-to-day work,” Sipula said. “We talk and negotiate with the armed forces, with armed groups, and directly with the people affected and displaced. Sometimes, we also have to deal with bureaucratic impediments that we need to overcome in order to have access to the people affected.”

Sipula joined OCHA in 2005 as a Humanitarian Affairs Assistant and is currently the most senior female national staffer within the OCHA DRC Country Office. Receiving news of the award came as a surprise to Sipula, who was nominated by Joseph Inganji, the Head of the OCHA DRC office.

“This award is not just for me. It’s an award for the whole team,” she said. “Beyond all of this, I am just representing the organization.”

Sipula also notes the important role of donors and how their funding helps to relieve the suffering of affected people in the DRC and other countries.

Godelieve Sipula (right) stands with Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller at the event. Credit: OCHA

This year’s event focused on the theme ‘We the Peoples’ and the vision of the UN founders to save future generations from the scourge of war, reaffirm faith in human rights and equal rights, ensure justice and international law, and promote social progress and freedom.

Past recipients of the United Nations Foundation award have included Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, His Highness the Aga Khan, former United States Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, UN Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, activist Malala Yousafzai and many others.