The combination of his civil engineering talent and Chris Lee’s ability as a bush pilot enabled him to make a real difference in Somalia in 2007.
Tens of thousands of displaced people faced starvation. Basic family survival packs needed distribution to remote districts scattered over vast areas.
The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), needed Chris to survey several airstrips, with a view to improvements.
At Wajid in south central Somalia, an airstrip damaged by heavy rain was surveyed with rudimentary equipment, and a design was prepared. Chris awarded a contract to a local non-government organisation employing 50 local people. He then supervised the work, much of it undertaken by manual labour.
Another dangerous airstrip at Conoco was cleared after engaging local people to clear away stones by hand.
Chris recalls the interaction with local officials, village elders, the sharing of camel’s milk made hazardous by inadequate storage, and the devastation of civil war impacting primarily on innocent civilians.
A very modest Chris has described his particular humanitarian engineering as “most satisfying”.
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Engineers Australia is proud to announce that 2011 is the Year of Humanitarian Engineering