There are places in this world where getting a job done can turn out to be risky business, where people are exposed to dangers like being under fire, kidnapped, carjacked, assaulted, robbed or worse.
When such incidences of danger are higher than most places, you probably find yourself in what is known as “hostile environment”, usually characterised by a mix of poor governance, conflict, natural disasters and/or war.
Crisis Management Missions such as EUCAP Somalia operate in high-risk areas. For these very reasons, the Mission employs a substantial number of security officers.
Christina Lange, from Germany, is one of them.
Christina is one of the longest serving Mission Members, having joined in 2013, when the HQ of the then EUCAP Nestor mission was in Djibouti. Since the Mission became EUCAP Somalia, Christina moved to work in Mogadishu, where she deals with duty of care and security of her colleagues on a daily basis.
“When the day goes by and all our colleagues return safely from their daily missions we know we have done our job well,” says Christina, emphasising that beyond every person serving in the Mission there are families across Europe concerned for their loved ones posted so far away, so duty of care extends to them too somehow.
This concept is not new to Christina’s professional life, as for long time – under different circumstances – she dealt with families of people she worked with.
Many years ago, before she started an international career in peacekeeping/peacebuilding missions in crises areas, she worked in high-risk detention facilities in Germany in programmes run by the Ministry of Justice. She dealt with prisoners with long-term sentences and was also involved with their rehabilitation and reintroduction to society. Christina’s role included arranging and escorting family visits for inmates, which at times were emotionally challenging for her.
“In certain circumstances you need to detach yourself from the situation and put up boundaries in order to remain efficient,” explains Christina recalling those working life days.
Years later, in May 2014, as a Mission Security Office for EUCAP Nestor in Djibouti, Christina found herself having to put aside her feelings again in the dramatic circumstance of being first responder in the immediate aftermath of an armed terroristic attack targeting her friends and colleagues.
“Although seeing your colleagues severely injured is shocking and saddening, as a security officer you must put your emotions aside otherwise you can’t do this job,” continues Christina, while sitting at the cafeteria of the EU Diplomatic compound, her home away from home in Mogadishu. She also reveals that in such situations the psychological toll affects you at a later stage.
“Certain experiences lead you to think about the dangers of working in some places and the effects this can have on your family,” says Christina, adding: “You ask yourself if you want and can continue to do your job in a potentially hostile environment. At the same time, if everyone would think this way no one would be here”, she adds.
Having worked as a UN field security officer for years in places such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Sudan and Lebanon, and then in EU Missions in the Horn of Africa, Christina seems to have definitely provided some of the under privileged in this world with a fair share of her personal and professional time away from home.
Possibly for this reason she now dreams of opening a café in her native city of Hamburg, where she can bake cakes for customers who would also be free to bring their dogs and cats.
This does not come as a surprise for those spending time with Christina in Mogadishu, aware of her special friendship with TAF and MOP, her two Somali kittens.
Born within the perimeter of the EU Diplomatic compound TAF and Mop would have no problem to be granted a EU pet passport to get on a EU flight when the time comes for them to join Christina’s future catering business and welcome the furry companions of customers visiting. No language barrier is foreseen.