It’s World Humanitarian Day tomorrow – meet the Blackpool man saving lives abroad

Aid worker Matt Benson, from Blackpool, with Prince Harry
Aid worker Matt Benson, from Blackpool, with Prince Harry

An aid worker stationed in Beirut has spoken of his efforts to help others for World Humanitarian Day.

Matt Benson, from Blackpool, is helping to lead the Department for International Development in Lebanon.

Shunning a life in the City to work abroad, the 34-year-old is a response manager, currently working with UK government on its work in the Middle Eastern country.

He said: “There is no typical day, given the nature of the work, which is why I love it so much. You can be walking into the office thinking about the various actions your team needs to follow-up, or a phone call you need to make, and there is a huge earthquake somewhere and your day, week, month, go out the window.

“Then it’s all hands to the pump, and the whole machinery of the response team kicks in.”

The UK is helping the poorest Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and has helped 149,000 children receive an education, and 312,000 people access clean water and sanitation.

His first deployment was to Ethiopia during the Horn of Africa Drought in 2011 – four weeks after joining the civil service.

“I visited therapeutic feeding centres in really rural and hard-to-reach locations,” he added. “Seeing severely malnourished children at the centres being provided with the necessary food and medical care made the work I was doing all the more real.

“The UK’s humanitarian work really does make a difference. The people we’re supporting are and have suffered beyond all comprehension. The support the UK provides for humanitarian response literally save people’s lives.”

Matt said his most touching moment to date was seeing a woman, Salma, in Gaza walk again despite fears for her mobility following surgery. He said: “The decision taken by me and the team to support rehabilitative support, such as physiotherapy, very early on in the response meant this woman I was talking to, as well as hundreds of other people, faced a different future. International development secretary Priti Patel added: “Britain’s humanitarians, like Matt, provide hope in countries where vulnerable people have nobody else to turn to.”