When the UN isn`t enough.

I do not like to criticize our partners in the UNHCR, but this time I have to.

Written by Robert Vawter, head of trustees, GAD Norway

Good leadership and firm decisions together with local knowledge are key factors in succeeding in rebuilding communities.

This could have been the case in Mambasa. A wartorn village where years of rebel attacks have blurred the line between right and wrong – for fathers and friends, as well as for pastors and officials. But sexual assaults are rarely reported because being recognized as a victim of sexual violence has a price. They are often stigmatized by families and friends or kicked out of school if pregnant. Men will leave their wives. There is no doubt that something needs to be done, not only to change the attitudes, but also to empower the victims and restore their pride.

In Mambasa, GAD was working with other NGOs on a project to reintegrate 200 victims of sexual violence. In addition to a health check, each victim were supposed receive 100 dollars to start their own business. Our volunteers were supposed to help and monitor, as well as spread awareness about sexual violence. When local GAD coordinator Jeplock called the team in Norway to tell about a new project you could hear the excitement in his voice. The project were to be funded by UNHCR. Such a project would have been a great step forward. Jeplock called us again later. UNHCR had to put the project hold. He was disappointment, but fully understood priorities for shifting the funding to help the massive refugee crisis in Burundi and Nord Kivu.

We are deeply grateful for our collaboration with the UNHCR. It helps restore hope, both for the volunteers and for the people we help. Yet when promises about funds, health clinics, schools and projects like the above mentioned are being broken, people’s trust in humanitarians ability to help, fades. And without trust our work bares no fruit. Incidents and atrocities go unreported, because there is no hope anyway. It`s not only frustrating for the victims who finally got a glimpse of hope. It is also frustrating for the aid workers who often are locals in the same situation as the victims. The GAD volunteers are no exception.

I´m writing this out of frustration on behalf of friends and their communities. The UN acts like an overworked firefighter who suddenly needs to leave a job to attend a more urgent case, without fully putting out the fire. Communities are left smoldering to locals NGOs with buckets and spit. But without the proper support, the smolder quickly flare up, getting out of hand for any NGOs salvia. The overworked firefighter runs around like a chicken with its head cut off, from unfinished work to unfinished work. Thus the circle of humanitarian crises is sustained unless the fire is completely extinguished.

Photo credit: Robert Vawter



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