Christian Saunders at the United Nations.

Christian Saunders graduated from Swansea in 1988 with a Masters in Epidemiology and Health Planning. Christian currently works as the Acting Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. Christian leads a staff of 30,000 and manages a budget of $1.4billion. We caught up with Christian in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis to ask him a few questions about his career and time at Swansea.

You were working with Refugees in Sudan and with Children in Mozambique during the time of your dissertation. How did that happen?

I received an offer for a job with Save The Children Fund (SCF) on the day I came back from my last exam at Swansea. It was the only offer I had on the table and the position seemed incredibly interesting - to manage a refugee camp for Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in the East of the Sudan - I jumped at it! I then proceeded to write my dissertation over the next two years while working with SCF in the Sudan and then in Mozambique during the civil war.

What were your 3 favourite things about the course?

  1. The course content.
  2. That the course had very diverse participants, in terms of backgrounds, ages, experiences and nationalities.
  3. The course principals and professors were committed, knowledgeable and approachable.

"My Swansea experience helped me considerably from the very first day of my very first job with Save The Children Fund."

Where are you working now? To what extent has your Swansea experience helped you progress in your career?

As Acting Commissioner General for UNRWA - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees - Responsible for providing protection and essential services, including education, primary health care, relief, social services and camp infrastructure for Palestine Refugees in Gaza, West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. UNRWA has 30,000 staff and an annual budget of $1.4 billion. 

My Swansea experience helped me considerably from the very first day of my very first job with SCF. Managing large health teams in refugee camps in the East of Sudan to the current period of trying to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst the 5.6 million Palestine refugees we are mandated to serve. 

What has been your greatest achievement in your career to date?

Being asked to put UNRWA back on track during a time when it faced the most serious financial shortfall in the history of the agency and where this already difficult situation was compounded by a crisis of confidence in the agency’s senior leadership following serious allegations of mismanagement.

What advice would you give anyone considering studying at Swansea?

Swansea may not be an obvious choice, but the diversity of both the student body and the courses on offer coupled with the commitment of the faculty and the warmth of the Welsh people make for an interesting and rewarding experience.