Zimbabwe Red Cross Society
World Food Programme regional operation
World Vision regional operation

Today we observed the internal operations of a few of the largest relief operations in southern Africa. Our delegation reviewed the individual and collective efforts to procure relief supplies and manage the payments. We had a chance to assess the effectiveness of the extensive outsourcing relationships involved in relief delivery here in Zimbabwe. While this may seem mundane to many, to me this is the backbone of securing the appropriate aid and ensuring that supplies flow through the system swiftly. Given the financial constraints to bring help to those suffering from starvation and AIDS here, there is no room for waste or over-expenditures.

Zimbabwe Red Cross Society’s financial system and internal efforts were impressive, with a strong dedication to continuous improvement. We will surely review their financial system further as a possible example of best practices.

The implementation partner collaboration between southern Africa operations of World Food Programme and World Vision was inspiring. They are collaborating around contracts, payments and outsourcing. This type of effort can reduce confusion and competition in the market place. The end result of this kind of cooperation can surely lead to a more efficient use of relief dollars and streamlined service to those in need.

I continue to be discouraged with the vicariousness of the donor processes. The inconsistencies across organizations and numerous and varied demands the existing donor requirements place on the humanitarian organizations makes a herculean job even more daunting.

We also met the regional logistics executive. I was extremely impressed with his extensive knowledge of relief efforts and issues he’d navigated in areas from Albania to Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe. It troubles me that his services will certainly be lost in the near future and that his personal treasure trove of knowledge will be difficult to capture or benefit from beyond his tour here.

The continued theme of obstacles around donor reporting and the entry, analysis and other operations requirements has inspired our Fritz Institute team to prepare studies of donor methodologies next year. Private sector expertise and modeling of best practices could help standardize donor reporting and lead to measurable savings in terms of accuracy and reducing labor hours on these tasks. I am looking forward to seeing how we may bring commercial assistance to this work.

We have had a unique opportunity to really examine the behind-the-scenes work of these dedicated relief professionals. Tomorrow we will have a closer look at the vastness of the needs of the people of southern Africa as we spend more time in the field.

Lynn Fritz

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