Maria Sole and Her Humanitarian Mission
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Maria Sole and Her Humanitarian Mission

A BOCCONI GRADUATE IN INTERNATIONAL LAW, SHE WORKS FOR DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS AND HAD TO MANAGE THE COVID EMERGENCY ON HER MISSION IN IRAQ. NOW SHE IS MOVING TO THE BRUSSELS OFFICE TO FIND AND TRAIN NEW COLLEAGUES, THEN SHE'LL GO BACK TO ANOTHER CONFLICT ZONE

Not just white coats, stethoscopes and masks. The image of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) is that of health personnel working on the field in war zones and humanitarian crises. Behind all this, however, there is a complex organization that has the task of enabling the miracles that their doctors and nurses perform every day in every part of the world. Suffice it to say that 43,000 people in 72 countries work for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and that in 2018 alone (the latest data available), the organization's doctors performed more than 11 million examinations. Among the people who work in the rear, in the fundamental role of training and support, there is Maria Sole Zattoni, a Bocconi class of 2012 graduate in Law in 2012 with a Master in Management of Social Organizations, Non-Profits and Co-ops from SDA Bocconi School of Management.

In a few weeks Maria Sole will move to Brussels, to work in one of the Organization's coordination centers, after several years spent on the field, but with a very sensitive job: "It will be a matter of transferring the skills I acquired in these years to others", explains Maria Sole, who since 2017, when she joined MSF, has taken part in missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Yemen, India (Kashmir, Manipur, Chhattisghar), Iraq, "by creating training and development paths for staff ". A delicate matter, if you consider the enormous difficulties of working in areas of the world "where an emergency situation has been there for so long, then when an additional contingent emergency like Covid occurs, things precipitate very quickly".

Maria Sole's mind immediately goes to Iraq, her most recent mission, which ended last month: "Authorities shut down the country almost immediately, before the end of February, thus managing to contain the number of victims. Unfortunately, however, and this is the downside, the closing of borders has greatly slowed down our activity, which is largely based on speed of intervention, and, above all, led to a resumption of ISIS activities due to limitations on the movement of international forces. Now, after Ramadan, Covid cases have started to rise again”.

In Iraq, Maria Sole Zattoni was head of human resources for the Iraqi mission of the Dutch MSF operations center, but also financial manager of important projects: “In reality my responsibilities were quite broad, it was about supervising the team that manages the administrative process, from pay to recruitment, evaluation of personnel and staff development plans. There are local people with enormous potential, what's important is to identify them and plan for them". But that is not all. Because there is also the legal part, for which Maria Sole has specialized education, "supported by a local lawyer", she underlines, "because the various contracts must be written according to local regulations".

A job and a way of life that after a while wears you out and makes you want take a break, if you can call it that: "I'll be back in Europe for a while in a calmer situation", continues Maria Sole, "I needed it. In addition, our European offices want people that have field experience they can transfer to younger managers. People should go beyond the somewhat romantic image that sometimes emerges about working in the humanitarian sector ", says Maria Sole: "We need trained managers who, as Bocconi taught me, have a method that helps them solve problems and take decisions in difficult environments. People that have those oft-cited soft skills which are fundamental here to resolve conflicts that arise every day, in few words we need people that possess leadership. After I find them, I will go back to working on the field because, ultimately, that's where I like to be."



by Davide Ripamonti
Translated by Alex Foti


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