Lindsay Morgan also dispatched her personal thoughts from her trip Southern Sudan. The post had all the usual ingredients, grizzled veterans, impossible projects, crazy donor expectations, poverty that won’t go away and that might get worse when you leave, constant travel to uncertain ends.
One word summed it up for me: SNAFU. It was coined by frustrated foot soldiers in the Second World War. The parallels seem striking to me, and to Lindsay who remarked:
“Aid workers are like soldiers fighting in a war the public back home has forgotten about or doesn’t understand.”
The big bosses at HQ draw lines on maps / construct logframes without any real clue as to what it look likes for those on the ground. Nonsensical orders come through and someone has to make sense of them. You never get the supplies you ordered; some logistics corps idiot / donor always has another idea. Then just when you’re finally about to make some progress they change their minds and tell you to do something else. No wonder green-behind-the-ears newbies turn into cynical veterans after just one campaign / project, and veterans compete with stories about just how bad it got for them. SNAFU indeed.
There is one important difference. In war there is a pretty severe feedback loop: lose a battle they shouldn’t have and the general responsible will be cashiered in an instant. In aid and development, it seems, it remains SUSFU.