Home | TheWaterBlog | Open Letter to UNICEF

posted by Frank van Steenbergen
April 29, 2013

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If you would head an organization whose mandate is to protect of the rights of children, help meet their basic needs and raise resources to achieve this..

And if that same organization, upon receiving funds from donors would take between six to eighteen months to get the paper work ready for things to roll out, mainly because of internal procedures and compliance mechanisms (that is what I observed, if it is an odd exception I stand corrected and humbly apologize but I am led to believe it is not exceptional)…

And if you would charge between 7-13% as handling fee on these funds for providing this belated service…

How would you feel?

I for one would not feel good. The reason is that by delaying implementation with say one year several thousand mothers and children have no access to clean water for that one year. This means more diarrhea, more morbidity, more retarded development. I would then not feel proud of receiving a salary upwards of what some heads of state make.

The name of the organization is UNICEF (but it is not the only one) and this open letter is based on several water and sanitation programs I have seen it is entrusted to manage in Africa.  Not only are delays common, what is worse, no one seems be bothered or angry. Obviously it is a much larger crime to break unwieldy rules than to speed up and deliver development to needy people.  It is not unusual that not only starting dates of programs are postponed but also that the time to implement is shortened because first fiduciary (who invented that word!) had to be fulfilled. Here is an issue of leadership and priorities. There is an expression in my country: ‘throwing away the baby with the washing water’, and this is what it is.

Bureaucracy kills.

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