I was detailed in August and September 1994 to help assist the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) disaster-relief team working in Rwanda in the aftermath of that country’s genocide. It was my first humanitarian field experience. These are some of my recollections from my time on the ground.
There were two other passengers on the small United Nations World Food Program plane headed to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. We did not talk during the short flight from Uganda. As the aircraft banked sharply toward the Kigali airport, I looked down at the local soccer arena, which had been converted into a makeshift parking lot for a fleet of white U.N. armored personnel carriers.
After landing, we loaded our bags and several boxes of medical supplies into the back of a U.N. vehicle parked next to the plane and drove out of the airport and onto the road; there was no passport check, luggage carousel, or customs.This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.