Our colleague Esperant tells his story of aid work in the Central African Republic, a country devastated by decades of war.
Since my last blog entry, several developments have taken place in the Oumba area where Cordaid is working with rural communities to reconstruct lives and infrastructure after a devastating conflict had razed everything to the ground.
In this video, I explained five challenges of humanitarian work:
At our project in Oumba, we have been particularly confronted with two of those challenges. There we had to respond proactively to ensure that the project could still achieve its intended objectives.
The first challenge we encountered was communication. Working in a community with high illiteracy levels meant that our community mobilization strategy had to be significantly adapted to respond to the specific audience we are working with.
This was not easily understood by the project team, right away. With support from country-level coordination and colleagues from the headquarters, several hours of joint work resulted in the re-adaptation of our messages in a way that enabled our beneficiaries to understand the central role they play in the success of the project.
At Cordaid we work with the principle that the community must always remain at the center of the actions we carry out. It is the community that identifies its priorities and contributes efforts and resources available to ensure that the project is a success and that it is fully owned by those it targets.
As we tailored our communication better, it was clear that changes began to happen at community level. Among these changes are the dynamic activities of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and Shelter Committees and the leadership of household heads in taking on the task to rapidly construct their shelters before the rainy season. Even children were eager to take an active role in ensuring that their family’s shelters would be ready on time!
Another one of the five challenges I mentioned in the video is access. The Oumba area, which is a densely forested area with mangroves, streams and small rivers running through, is particularly difficult to access. This is also due to a nonexistent road infrastructure, dilapidated bridges and soil that will rapidly swallow all four tires of any vehicle moving through in the rainy season.
Working in close collaboration with the project contractor, as a team, we were able to design alternative delivery channels to bring much-needed construction materials and other inputs to the field location. This delivery channel included using the road segments that were practicable with cars, relaying the supply chain to some villages with motorcycles, and using the Oubangui River which runs through a number of the villages.
The success of this task relied primarily on good collaboration and information sharing among all project stakeholders, including the Cordaid team, the local partner, the contractor and most importantly the communities in Oumba.