Thursday, June 12, 2008
I'm also reflecting on the large set of challenges we have before us at the IRC. I'm just starting to understand some of the subtleties and complexities of international humanitarian work. I read an abstract of an article yesterday which said that some agencies are doing more harm than good as they try to help developing nations with their health needs. I know how hard we work at this, so it's doubly frustrating to read that we may not be as effective as we'd hoped, at least according to some. I look forward to getting back and discussing some of these issues with my colleagues.
Finally, I think about the challenges within the IT department, which are many. Besides the technical and financial issues, there are significant issues of culture, and organizational momentum. Things that we think should work in a typical US-based organization just might not work on a global scale. I think we have to rethink our approach somewhat. The problem is, I'm not sure I fully understand what the new approach should be. Maybe that's for my next 8 hour flight.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Internet connection. More than others can say. Came back to the hotel for dinner, which wasn't particularly appetizing, but we made do. Slept well.
This morning we had a very basic breakfast (thank god for eggs) and bought some provisions for lunch (crackers to go with my peanut butter) and headed back to the office. After some good Peet's French press coffee, we met briefly with the health team to look at their "database". It turned out to be a pretty nice Excel workbook that was out together by a local guy. The most interesting part was that we were able to see how the data is collected in the field, transmitted back to HQ, and entered into a database that we support. The other thing that struck us is that nearly everything is done on paper. It shouldn't be surprising, but it felt very archaic. I feel like if I could put a team in here for 6 months, we could create a set of very efficient systems. Clearly unrealistic, but I'll have to do some thinking about if and how my team can add value here.
At 10am we left for the field. We were embedded with the health team as they do their weekly outreach visits to the satellite camps. We visited a couple of clinics in the main camps, then drove deep into the countryside to a small camp that has no clinic, so the infirmed wait for us to come to them. We arrived to a large group of locals sitting under a tree, anxiously awaiting our arrival. Most of the cases are not severe, so they're seen by a health worker, analyzed, and passed on to the next station where they may get some medication or an immunzation. Everything is tracked in the patient's health booklet, and various logs books kept by the staff (for later data entry into Excel). It's quite primitive, but effective.
We were told about one of the little kids running around. She's about 11, but looks more like 8. She's epileptic' and was abandoned by her parents very early. Our health team have her medication, and she's much better now. She can go to school and play with other kids. Her parents have taken her back, and now that the community has seen this transformation, they're bringing other epileptic kids to the weekly clinic.
We're actually not far from the border with Sudan. This area was not safe a year ago. These people are slowly moving back towards their original lands, but they move slowly to make sure it's safe. The government and the military determine the best location for the next camps, and then people come slowly, essentially testing the waters. When they're comfortable with the security situation, and know there's water and medical care, they come. This process will happen again and again until they end up back in their original lands. This can take many years. Quite a process.
It appears to be a very peaceful place. It's hard to imagine that there was a terrible war here just a few years ago.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
We also had some very interesting talks about the role of IT. They clearly understand the value of being more strategic, and all of them very much want to step up. It's tricky, though, given all they have to do, but it was great to see the passion and enthusiasm. My challenge, now, is to support them, both technically, and "managerially" from a significant distance. It'll be a challenge, but if I can create a sense of community with these folks, we'll be able to accomplish much together.
The timing of all this, coming on my one year anniversary at the IRC, is auspicious. As I look back, I feel like I've made some significant progress in terms of understanding the IRC, and this conference is a major milestone. I feel like all the pieces are in place, and now it's about flawless execution. Not small task, for sure, but the potential is huge. Looking forward to some R&R this weekend, then back to work.