Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – Head Of Operational Cell (RECO), Nairobi.

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Head of Operational Cell (RECO)


(Based in Nairobi)

General Context 

Médecins Sans Frontières is an international independent medical-humanitarian organization, which offers assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict, without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation.

The MSF movement is built around five operational directorates supported by 23 sections and offices worldwide. MSF OCBA is one of those directorates. The operations are implemented by field teams and the mission coordination teams; together  with the organizational units based in Barcelona, Athens and Nairobi. The field operations are guided and supported by 5 Operational Cells, the Emergency Unit and other departments supporting operations.


MSF Eastern Africa
In 2012 OCBA established the East Africa Unit (EAU) and decentralised an operational cell to Nairobi with the intent to increase MSF utilisation of Nairobi’s burgeoning humanitarian hub status and to be closer to its missions.  So far, it’s been exciting and a challenge, but the potential has not been fully maximised.  The OCBA East Africa Unit together with Branch office (which later/and recently evolved to become a Partner section) worked to leverage greater understanding and opportunities for MSF in East Africa; to help diversify our knowledge network and improve our projects through innovation, better expert elicitation and links to regional decision-making platforms.

The MSF Eastern Africa Section is the regional institutional office for MSF in East Africa. The office focuses on representation and networking, including with humanitarian organisations and authorities, recruiting and supporting staff from the region, communications and fundraising, as well as on other dossiers of importance to MSF such as Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI), mutualization, trainings, medical operational support and environmental health.

MSF OCBA is one of the operational entities/directorates. The operations are implemented by field teams and the mission coordination teams; together with the organizational units based in Barcelona, Athens and decentralised in Nairobi, Dakar and Amman. The field operations are guided and supported by 5 Operational Cells, the Emergency Unit and other departments supporting operations, including the HR Department.

The Head of the Operational Cell (RECO) manages OCBA’s regional portfolio.  The division of representation leaves the RECO to forge links towards regionally focused stakeholders and platforms and the MSF Eastern Africa Section (and the HRT) to the more global and humanitarian thematic representation.  It’s been evaluated that this has given OCBA strong insights and leverage which has improved analysis and overall response but still more opportunities are available.

At the moment, the Cell 5 is located in Nairobi, manages four missions: Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.   The logic is that the Cell will be responsible for the Horn of Africa and East Africa.  It is a demanding portfolio including some of the most challenging contexts requiring flexible thinking, network building and strong analysis based on MSF principles.

What would your mission be?

The Head of the Operational Cell (RECO) is responsible for overseeing the different phases in the cycle of missions and projects in the field (opening, follow-up, orientation and closing) and ensures that quality standards are duly maintained and MSF’s humanitarian and deontological principles respected in the projects within his/her portfolio (4-6 mission countries), within the framework of Executive Plan, Operational Policy and operations annual orientations plan, in order to perform relevant, high-impact operations.

S/he is hierarchically under the Operational Director.

The Operational Cell (OC) is a matrix-like “team set-up” integrating members of the different services or departments of MSF OCBA as the basis for direct support and guidance to the missions within the Cell’s portfolio.  The OC is made up of a person in charge of the Cell (RECO), one Deputy RECO, one Health Advisor (TESACO), one Logistics Advisor (TELOCO), one Operational Finance (FINOCO), one Human Resources Advisor (REHUCO), one Humanitarian Affairs Advisor (HAA) and one Communications Advisor (COA). The team Cell is hierarchically under the RECO, with the exception of the FINOCO and COA that are hierarchically under the Head of Operational Finance Service and the Head of Field Comms respectively.  The team is supported by MSF NBO support Unit. 

What are we looking for?

  • Degree from University or Higher Institute (in medicine, nursing, bio-medical sciences, social sciences, political sciences, economy, judicial sciences…). Preferably post graduate.
  • Medical or paramedical background is considered as an asset. 
  • Minimum of 3 years’ experience with MSF in coordination positions.
  • Highly knowledgeable of and interested in the international humanitarian context.
  • Fluent in English, French and Spanish (at least two languages). Arabic is also beneficial.
  • IT knowledge as advanced user.

Competencies: Identification with MSF and its principles, Strategic Vision, Results and Quality Orientation, Planning and Organising, Leadership, People management, Teamwork, cross-cultural awareness, security awareness and management, networking, capacity to negotiate.

What will your responsibilities be?

  • Participate in the organisational strategy contributing to the reflection on positioning and the role of MSF OCBA regarding humanitarian crises and related dilemmas, protection issues and operational strategies within portfolio and beyond, through organising, promoting and participating in debates, analysis and reflection exercises.
  • Provide operational input to contribute to the definition of the strategies of the rest of the Departments, taking into account their contributions when defining Operations’ plans to strengthen transversal planning and boost integration. Participate in the Operations Coordination Team.
  • Identify and report situations in which the implementation of OCBA policies and procedures is not viable or may hinder the achievement of operational objectives, propose adaptations and exceptions to these in the appropriate forum, and apply the exceptions when necessary as long as they are justified.
  • Hold Services accountable for the quality of their support, proactive monitoring/analyses of policy implementation/adaptation, and timeliness in raising issues with the operational line and be accountable for the implementation of strategies and policies of MSF OCBA.
  • Contribute to the definition of OCBA operational vision. Contribute to reviewing the MSF OBCA’s Operational Policy, operational annual orientations and security policies.
  • Define the strategy of missions within portfolio, conducting context analyses. Lead the reflection on positioning and the role of MSF OCBA in relation with the Operational Policy with regard to humanitarian crises for the CPP of missions.
  • Define missions, projects and interventions in portfolio, guaranteeing their pertinence compliance with the Operational Policy. Ensure the promotion and participation in the proposal, planning and follow-up of exploratory missions and all phases of the project cycle.
  • Planning and budgeting of missions and contribute to the planning and organisation of the Operations Department.
  • Supervise, analyse and provide support in the implementation when implementing the CPP and annual operational plan in the projects within portfolio, according to quality standards and to MSF’s humanitarian and deontological principles, with the primary objective to meet population’s needs.
  • Ensure that MSF role on humanitarian action and “témoignage” is effectively executed by identifying related medical-humanitarian dilemmas, defining lobbying, advocacy and communication strategies.
  • Supervise all aspects of management of the missions, projects, exploratory missions and interventions in the assigned portfolio, based on the annual operational orientations, ensuring the appropriate support.
  • Provide tactical support and advice to the Operational Cell and HoM in the follow-up and orientation of projects.
  • Ensure support and supervision for the day to day management of the cell team.
  • Ensure the deployment of a pool of Humanitarian Affairs Officers in the field.
  • Ensure adequate security management through supervision for portfolio’s missions, projects and interventions in line with the security policy, rules and guidelines of MSF OCBA.
  • Ensure the analysis and evaluation of the implementation of lobbing, advocacy and communication strategies within portfolio.
  • Lead, provide support, and coach the cell team in their functioning and decision making process, to ensure that objectives be achieved.
  • Be responsible of the selection process of the cell team (taking the final decision on selection of candidates) and carry out their follow-up and evaluation, in order to ensure their adjustment, coverage of their training needs and future development.
  • Promote knowledge management, collaborating with the Training Unit in the definition of the contents of MSF-OCBA courses, facilitating them when needed, to adapt them to the Organisation’s needs.
  • Manage internal communication channels and represent MSF OCBA at MSF international level and towards external actors (international organisations, NGOs, institutions, donor agencies, diasporas, civil society) and the media, for the missions of the assigned portfolio, on humanitarian crises, inter-agency operational coordination, and for fundraising.
  • Elaborate with Operational Finance (FinOp) the reporting to donor agencies, and with Fundraising the reporting to major donors.

Selection Criteria:

Training and experience

  • Degree from University or Higher Institute.
  • Medical or paramedical background is considered an asset. 
  • Minimum of 3 years of operational experience with MSF in contexts similar to those in portfolio (violence, conflict and emergencies).
  • Knowledgeable of and interested in humanitarian action and its international dimensions.
  • Fluent in English. Knowledge of languages spoken in the region is an asset (Swahili, Arabic, Amharic, Somali, Other…).
  • Advanced knowledge of Windows setting as a user (mainly Word and Excel), and new IT.


  • Commitment to MSF’s Principles
  • Cross-cultural Awareness
  • Strategic Vision
  • Results and Quality Orientation
  • Capacity to Negotiate
  • Teamwork and Cooperation
  • Leadership
  • People Management and Development
  • Security Awareness and Management
  • Networking and Building Relationships


  • Availability to travel frequently and on short notice.
  • Flexibility with working hours.

What are we offering?

  • Based in the Nairobi Office.
  • Full time job.
  • Travel to the projects 25-30% of the time.
  • Commitment: minimum 3 years which can be extended to a maximum of 6 years in line with MSF policy.
  • Expected starting date: August 2021.
  • Annual Salary of KES 7,025,682 divided into twelve monthly payments + Secondary benefits based on EAS Reward Policy.

How to apply

Applicants should send their curriculum vitae and motivation letter by 30th May 2021 through the link  below;


Please note that MSF will only contact short-listed candidates.

MSF is committed to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization where all individuals (regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, etc.) feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued and where all individuals have equal opportunities to develop and grow professionally and personally)

We highly encourage women to apply for this position.





Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

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