June’s Hero of Health: Jonathan Whittall

News article 22 Jun 2023

June each year sees World Refugee Day and week - an oppurtunity to honour people who have been forced to flee their homes. One person for whom refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDP) are not a once-a-year consideration is LSTM graduate and June’s Hero of Health, Jonathan Whittall.

Jonathan has considerable experience in refugee and humanitarian environments. Early in his career, he managed an IDP return monitoring project in Northern Uganda for GOAL. He was also worked for Merlin in South Darfur where he set up new projects and managed cross frontline mobile clinics in the region.

Médecins Sans Frontières

However, it is at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) where Jonathan has spent most of his career and where refugees and IDPs continue to occupy him. Life at MSF began in 2008 in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa, where Jonathan provided operational support in emergency situations in Zimbabwe for migrant and refugee communities and during an outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa. Since then he has worked on MSF's medical humanitarian responses in South Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Bahrain, Lebanon and Syria where he developed emergency operations, negotiated access and managed the security of humanitarian teams. Today, he finds himself the head of the West Bank Field Coordination Unit and interim head of the Research and Analysis Unit at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Away from the frontline

Jonathan combines direct field work in emergencies with work on advocacy and analysis. As the founding director of the MSF analysis department, he brought together operational, analytical, and strategic skills to manage teams in the areas of health politics, forced migration, conflict and humanitarianism, and negotiated access. He has also contributed to academic journals and newspapers on the politics of humanitarian aid, and in 2021 co-edited Everybody's war: the politics of aid in the Syria crisis.