I fear I have offended a higher-up. Oh woe is me whatever shall I do.
We have given this agency time, money and ample opportunity to correctly and adequately address the issues in the Idi camp that they—as receivers of the official funding—should have had in hand from the outset. What do we get? Stalling, obfuscating, and protestations that nothing’s wrong.
I present the latest interchange--in chronological order, so you get the full flavor, but with names changed, because even though we’re reporting public information, I don’t trust anyone these days to not be vindictive. The world of humanitarian assistance is full of, well, humans. Nobody likes to have their flaws exposed.
From: Sara Henderson [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Tuesday, June 02, 2009 10:31 AM
B.R. at UNHCR suggested that I contact you about a severe problem that is happening at the refugee camp in Idi. Before IOM came to Idi on a permanent basis, a group of local NGO's was working there that had divided responsibilities for the refugees at the camp. Since the arrival of IOM there has been much confusion and miscommunication. This seems to be due to a lack of any coordination on the ground between the local NGO's and IOM. In spite of this it appeared that IOM had everything under control. Thus we decided that there was no need for us to continue to supply the camp with food, water, cooking oil, kerosene etc. I wrote to S. F. and others telling them of our exiting the camp. However, last week my staff told me that there were very limited food supplies and only 5 days of rice left. I have to say I was surprised.
My staff and FPRM tried (as they had many time in the past) to get in touch with your staff to discuss this urgent matter, as no one was sure if IOM was going to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the camp. Not only were we confused but the local government had also not been informed. Today N finally made contact with your staff and was told that IOM only provides hygiene kits, and also that it had built a fence. IOM has left the camp in a very precarious state, as there is only rice for today and no funding for tomorrow. Luckily, we still have funds left from one of our donors and will step in at this late point and supply the camp with what is needed.
I regret having to write you about this but we need to all communicate better, cooperate better and consult with one another. Unfortunately, at this time I am in New York but my staff in Aceh is handling this matter. They are concerned because we do not have unlimited funding nor do we have funds to go further than the end of this month. We really hope that we can work together on this critical situation.Thanking you in advance for your kind assistance,
And his response:
On Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 12:02 PM, PH wrote:
Whatever reports you have from your staff are incorrect. IOM has not left the camp in any manner (much less in a precarious state) and there are no problems with food supplies. IOM has been providing food and cooking supplies as needed since we arrived and will continue to do so in the future. FPRM is regularly providing vegetables, fruit and spices. If FPRM ever needed to stop providing these then IOM will provide the shortfall.
IOM has no communication problems with FPRM, PMI or anybody else there to provide assistance. We are also fully aware of the problems that preceded our being given permission to work in Idi. To link our arrival with confusion and miscommunication is another incorrect statement.
Deplu and the Camat’s office understand IOM’s plan to remain in Idi. On the ground in Idi we have almost daily contact with the Camat and/or his staff.
In short, the situation is not as described by your staff.
So I sent P’s note to my staff and received this:
Subject: Re: Food in Idi
To: Sara Henderson
Date: Tuesday, June 2, 2009, 1:16 PM
I'm sorry, Sara, I think I have said it incorrectly. It wasn’t that IOM refused to buy the rice because they had already supplied hygiene kits and fences to the camp. They have actually contributed quite lot. However, they did not coordinate their contributions with any existing local organizations or village members that have been working in the camp long before IOM came in. This caused doubling items in the warehouse, and almost all of it now has to be discarded. So now, the rice is truly running out. We should ask IOM if they want to supply rice to the camp.
It is also true that this lack of coordination and not working with other groups has offended the local community, and also those who had been supplying food to the refugees in the past. The person that IOM assigned to the camp is very low level, and inappropriate as a representative of IOM in terms of talking to about issues or needs or getting any response.
We know that IOM is authorized by the Indonesian Government (under Deplu) to provide humanitarian assistance at the camp. But they really need to sit down and begin to initiate open communication and coordination--not only with the Camat, PMI and local authorities, but also with local organizations and groups that have been supplying the camp. IOM might not have communication or coordination problems with the Camat, but they do have problems with local organizations and community groups.
So this is IOM’s way of responding to an immediate need in an appropriate and culturally sensitive manner. That only tangentially results in escapes, tension, confusion, and continual lack of supplies.
I know I’ll sleep better tonight knowing I’ve been put in my place by a higher-up. I guess there’s nothing to worry about, then . . .