How Aid Agencies Cheat Donors in the Name of South Sudan

By Holy Crook

Juba, January 14, 2013 (SSNA) — “100 children die of hunger-related diseases every single minute in Jonglei. Save a starving child, donate a dollar!”

“Four million people will starve to death in South Sudan in the next one week. Reverse the situation: donate a dime!”

“A million people have lost sight to trachoma in Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria and another million is at risk. Help! Donate now! Every penny counts!”

“No one has toes anymore in Warrap; an army of jiggers have eaten them up. Help stop the spread to the neighboring states, donate now! Send your donations to 12345……”

“UN needs 3 trillion dollars for its overall operations in South Sudan this year!”

Those are some of the horrifying stories that frequently make headlines on local TV and FM stations and in newspapers in Europe and the Americas. The alarming headlines are backed up by eloquent young attractive women who claim to have just returned from the world’s newest country. They tell untold testimonies about the alleged dire conditions on the ground:

“You’re not going to believe what I am about to say: I went to some area deep in Eastern Equatoria. As most parts of the country are impassable by road, we trekked. We negotiated a footpath through thick forests and valleys and rivers for days. On the fifth day, we bumped into this village. The village is inhabited by pastoralists. In this community of about 1000 people, only seven have sight. Just seven people! The rest are blind! Thanks to trachoma,” tinged a female voice on radio recently.

Another visiting NGO agent, a middle-aged woman spoke on a national TV: “In a place called Akobo, women told us of how they go for days without food. They eke out the little food they gather during poor harvests. I saw them with my own eyes, eating grass like goats! They have turned into herbivorous. The situation is really bad. They need urgent help.”

A number of groups of ‘humanitarian’ souls move from door to door, city to city – campaigning, generating money by showing graphic photos of hungry skeletal elderly people;  photos of Dinka, Nuer and Murle children with swollen limbs and stomachs. They tell and tell and tell the same horrible stories about South Sudanese people in the media in their insatiable quest to win philanthropists. They target filthy rich businesspeople and celebrities. Touched by such stories, the generous rich Whites pour billions of dollars into the accounts.

In Juba, heads of such agencies spend much of their time working on reports that show how they spent the previous budgets, why they need more funds and what they plan to do next. They write success stories in which the alleged beneficiaries praise them: “A million thanks to NGO X, it saved my life and of my children. It gave me a kilo of maize, a quarter kg of beans and a packet of table salt. This will take me a month before I resume grass eating.”

While the effort exerted by these NGOs in order to stabilize the country is highly commendable, do you think they are doing South Sudan any good? Are they really humanitarian organizations or are they commercial business entities?

Well, let’s do some brainstorming.

In reality, some, if not all of the aid agencies operating in the country, have an obligation to empower the local people. They are on the ground to – among others – impart knowledge and skills to teachable South Sudanese; be it in the health, education or business sector. They are here to redesign doctors, nurses, administrators and so on to fit the world standards. Aren’t they?

However, it seems that these agencies have ulterior motives. They do little or nothing at all to upgrade the local workforce. The managers hire foreign nationals at will. Some come from as far as Madagascar and Sierra Leone. Don’t even mention Kenyans and Ugandans because they’re locals nowadays. They’re in possession of South Sudanese nationality documents. We will talk about that some other day. They give them long-term contracts. I repeat, long-term contracts. The NGOs pay for their accommodation in Juba’s ‘seven’ star hotels. The NGOs foot their food and drink’s bills.

With the funds raised from the West to supposedly combat jiggers in Warrap or feed malnourished children in Jonglei – Kenyans and Ugandans have grown so fat such that some have necks the size of hippopotamus’. Some walk with the help of crutches not because they got wounded in any war but because food, South Sudanese’s, has deformed them.

The NGOs have turned Juba into a kind of a holiday camp. They wine and dine every single day. If anyone blindfolded you and placed you in one of their favorite joints in Juba, you would probably think that you were in London or New York. It’s all-White.  

Monthly, the bosses reward themselves with huge amounts of dollars, a sum equivalent to the salaries of all the employees of an organization, ten times. They’re renting first-class residences in the city. The offices pay that. They ride chauffeured Bentleys, Coups and Jeeps.

On the other hand, the national employees take home a few hundreds of pounds. Some of them have even become mathematicians as they divide their monthly salaries by monthly problems such as rent, food, school fees and miscellanea of many other needs. And you always find someone who is quick to try to cheer you up with a crap like – “Be good. You’re a decent promising young man. You’re just twenty-something and you’re working in a decent office, decent job and you get decent salary.” Decent my foot!

Do you see how the donations find their way back to the west?

Ideally, the number of the international employees in an organization should be lessened. The few white folks should be there to overlook the project. The brothers from the East and beyond should be given short-term deals. They should be recruited as consultants and work with the locals. Make them ‘transfer’ their know-how to the locals. That’s it.

Anyway, for how long will this relief aid culture continue in the country? Don’t you think it’s fanning the fire of overdependence in the country? Free food. Free medicines. Free water. Free this. Free that. Don’t you think this is the very reason the government is reluctant to deliver basic services to people because it feels that there is no need since the agencies are ‘helping’?

MSF is there, providing healthcare. ADDRA is busy digging boreholes. WFP planes still airdrop food items. USAID just built Juba-Nimule road and it looks like it is going to tarmac more roads. UNICEF builds and runs schools. Even some NGO is currently digging pit latrines in the country. Another agency distributes mosquito nets.

The more the aid agencies offer these free services, the more the government sleeps and the more the country gets addicted to free things……and more importantly, the more they spoon-feed South Sudan, the more they divert the donations. What a thriving business!

Holy Crook is a South Sudanese based in Juba. He can be reached via: [email protected]

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