Despite all these difficulties I am confident that together, we can make a difference and be responsible, for everyone’s benefit

This story is part of the United Nations in BiH series of personal accounts highlighting extraordinary work during COVID-19 response and recovery; marking UN75.

My name is Azra Ibrahimović - Srebrenica and I am Camp manager of the first Temporary Reception Centre opened in Sarajevo Canton, on 24 October 2018. The main purpose of opening the centre was to host migrants that started arriving in increasing numbers to Sarajevo in 2018. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, as the camp manager, I’m the first to ensure that all preventive measures are taken into account and respected from all personnel working in the centre, as well as all stakeholders and the persons in our care. Additionally, my responsibility is to coordinate, update and make sure that all partners are timely informed and apply recommendations issued by relevant health institutions.

Regardless of the pandemic, temporary reception centres and IOM staff, as until now, have been present non-stop, in shifts, providing support to the beneficiaries. As a part of the essential staff, working from home was not an option, my team and I were present in the centre and performed our responsibilities as usual during this very challenging period. I remember that my first thoughts were: how to protect from COVID-19 almost a thousand people inside the camp and how to protect staff and myself and therefore my family in order to stay healthy and to keep running all the services inside the camp.

Even before the official decision regarding  restrictive measures was announced, when we didn’t know what to expect, IOM decided to start working on awareness raising and applying preventive measures inside the camp. We started to prepare all disinfection sites, conduct informative meetings with people, Community representatives as well as partners, introducing COVID-19 awareness videos and during that period, of course, we strictly followed instructions from the relevant health institutions. Thus far, we had 0 positive cases and measures were 100% applied inside Ušivak.  

The biggest challenge I personally faced while working in COVID-19 response was to maintain peace and tranquillity inside the centre. When the restrictive measures were first introduced, the centre exceeded accommodation capacities, people were closed inside the camp without the possibility to go out and to have access to shops or banks or post offices.  This is situation in which any minor discussion can turn into violent conflict and fight. By joint efforts with my team, we managed to overcome these past months without any significant incidents.

I believe that in order to properly recover from the pandemic, mental health is the one of the most important things to address, nevertheless during or after crisis period. People need serious and systematic way to recover from trauma that the COVID-19 pandemic, and everything the response entailed created. I personally put my efforts to provide timely and official information regarding COVID-19 response to all stakeholders in the field in order to avoid an mitigate the dangers of false information’s and influence that can harm people and put them under pressure, stress or any kind of risk.

I keep being inspired by my co-workers, colleagues from our partner organizations and the beneficiaries. They all showed high level of awareness toward COVID-19 response, applied all measures that were requested and suggested by relevant institutions, but they also showed a high level of positivity and optimism in this very difficult and uncertain time for all of us. Special inspiration came from the migrants because for them this was a difficult situation in several ways; being migrant/refugee in foreign country; being closed in a camp without possibility of movement, these restrictions are now lifted; facing pandemic in a foreign country. Despite all these difficulties I am confident that together, we can make a difference and be responsible, for everyone’s benefit.

The International Organization for Migration – IOM is the leading agency in providing humanitarian response to the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, managing, with partners, seven facilities for their accommodation in Una - Sana and Sarajevo Canton.

Written by
Communications Unit
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Organization for Migration