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Negasi Seyoum started working for MSF in 1991, after having gained experience in the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in the north of the country as Head of the Health Center in Abi-Addi, as a nurse  in Woldia Hospital and as a scrub nurse in OT and in emergency room in Asmara Hospital. Although he had always dreamed of becoming a doctor, the instable situation in Ethiopia (the country was torn by a civil war and an independence war with Eritrea) left him with no opportunity to study medecine. He studied nursing instead which enabled him to help the most vulnerable Ethiopians.

Tell us about your career switch at MSF from Nurse to HR and Finance coordinator.

If you do your job properly and you feel committed to the values of MSF, you can get the support you need to grow. The project Coordinator  of MSF Belgium in Jijiga knew that I had experience in administrative and finance tasks when I was working for the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. He trusted me and believed I could evolve within MSF. He proposed that I work as Field Admin/Finance coordinator  in the same project. Later on, I grew into a Human resources assistant and to a more coordinating role over the years. After 20 years of working in Ethiopia as ‘national staff’, I took up the challenge to be an ‘expatriate’ as a  Project HR/Fin Manager in Afghanistan.

How did you feel about working outside of your country?

Whether it is in my country or abroad: serving the community and saving lives is the most important. It’s a good opportunity to discover different contexts and  challenges and to adapt to the culture in Afghanistan where I stayed for 2 years. Although it was hard to be seperated from my family, I was lucky. My family was very supportive because they understood  my interest and wish to work with a humanitarian organization and that I wanted to serve and help.  When I was in Afghanistan, I managed to see them every 3 months. Thank God for technology that enables us to stay in touch so easily!


Whether it is in my country or abroad: serving the community is the most important.

At the moment, you are a Finance and HR coordinator in Ukraine. Can you describe a typical day ?

It is very different from my job as a nurse. In a medical position, your day depends on patients and you have to undertake immediate action which turns into instant gratification. But in this non-medical role, you don’t see immediate satisfaction  because dealing with colleagues is a challenge in itself. When you implememt rules and policies of the organization, it’s sometimes difficult to satisfy everyone. In the end, when I treat everyone  equally according to the rules of the organization I feel satisfied.  I am responsible for the HR strategy of the mission, the HR management, budget and forecast follow-up  and to ensure the day-to-day activity is running smoothly  in my department.

What does a good HR/fin manager need?  

You need to have good leadership skills, be a good listener, be a team player and have competencies in Human Resources management.  It is important to understand your team’s needs, that you are  able to give directives, to delegate, train, coach, and support as well as organize and plan. Besides your expertise, you need commitment and respect towards the charter and towards MSF values. Honesty, openness and humanitarian interest are indispensable. Your biggest reward should not be money but saving lives.


According to me, qualities such as honesty, openness and humanitarian interest are indispensable to work for MSF. Your biggest reward should be saving lives, not money.

Can you tell us about one of your missions you are most proud of?

I worked in the Somali Region in the Hergel Displaced Camp (for internal refugees)  in the Eastern part  of Ethopia in 1992. MSF was there as one of the first to set up a nutrition programme in the camp as well as a large vaccination campaign, abiding by strict standard hygiene procedures. We ended up saving many children and this made me proud to be part of MSF, to be able to be part of something big and with such internal expertise.

You have been with MSF for over 27 years. How has the organization evolved?

MSF has grown so big. We are well resourced and organized now. When I joined, I remember that the management and follow-up of purchasing local goods and supplies was not strong.  Better follow-up, administrative and monitoring processes are in place now.

We are also able to respond to emergencies much better and the voluntary spirit is still strong among staff. The team spirit and atmosphere after working hours has changed a bit since social media: nowadays colleagues connect to Facebook or to Skype after work hours to talk to their friends or family instead of relaxing and spending time together. Understandable of course; family is important! 

Lastly, I feel we should find a way to make colleagues stay longer in MSF, by providing good management support or more interesting benefits.

What would you say to someone thinking of joining MSF?

I would tell them the same thing that I tell my kids (laughs). You can work for MSF, if you have a strong interest and commitment  and the voluntary spirit to help people who need it the most . You need to work hard and gain the right competencies. MSF is also a stepping stone to any career you want. You will get accepted. I met an ex-colleague after many years at an airport who I used to work with in ’91 and who later joined a UN organisation. He was surprised to hear I was still working for MSF. I explained that it is not about the money but about the satisfaction of what I am doing. I have never looked at another vacancy. I have decided to work with MSF for the rest of my life. 

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