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No Lollygagging

July 28, 2011

Aid organizations continue their work while media catches up

Being from New York now and also a former college track runner means I walk fast just about everywhere I go. I call it doing “the NY shuffle” … hustling from from point A to point B with no lollygagging in between (lollygagging:taking your sweet time … at least that’s how we said it in Oklahoma!)In Africa, I am driving people nuts. I want taxi cabs to show up NOW, I want people to get me the facts yesterday, and I apparently talk too fast, being an American.Yet, while it is comical at times to feel such a strong urge to tell people around here to “hurry up,” I am also hearing people tell me … or our staff … how we need to hurry up! I don’t think I can recall the last time someone told ME to hurry … when it’s usually slow down!Yes, it seems there is a bit of frustration from viewers watching the situation in the Horn of Africa unfold as thousands flee Somalia and hundreds more die from starvation or disease. There is a great deal of desperation and urgency for relief workers to “do something!” … and rightfully so. What’s happening doesdemand action.
Esinyen Ebenyo, 8 months old, a severely malnourished infant in Lorongon, Kenya.

Esinyen Ebenyo, 8 months old, a severely malnourished infant in Lorongon, Kenya. Photo by Abby Metty. Copyright 2011 World Vision, all rights reserved.

However, having arrived in Nairobi and talked to many of our World Vision staff who serve here year ’round, I am quickly realizing how MUCH has been happening by relief organizations like ours and for much LONGER than media outlets have been telling us.

For example, World Vision launched an emergency response to the Horn of Africa back in February. Even before them, staff members were helping communities prepare for the worst.

However, even with relief workers sounding the alarm months ago that a drought or famine was likely coming and action needed to be taken, most media outlets didn’t cover the story then. The drought came, the situation escalated and eventually a famine was officially declared by the U.N. … launching an instant media blitz to Somalia.

Of course, many relief organizations like World Vision are also ramping up response efforts since the number of refugees fleeing to the borders has daily increased. But locally, I am seeing the frustration by staff who are continually being told to “hurry up” and do something quick when this response has been going on for months. The problem is that access into Somalia had been cut off by insurgent groups who have told several relief organizations like ours to leave the south central areas of the country. Yet, meantime, World Vision has been providing emergency food, water and health care to refugees in safe zones like up north for months.

I am learning a lot about humanitarian responses but I think this week I learned that the phrase “hurry up” would be more accurate if we instead said “keep it up!”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2011 12:43 am

    Mindy, your efforts are incredible. “Keep it up!”

    I can easily understand how it might sometimes be discouraging to work day in, day out not knowing when the chaos will cease. Do you see any sustainable improvements coming in the future or is that too much to think about right now?

    Emily Berg for Bank-On-Rain
    Follow us on twitter @EmilyBerg @BANKONRAIN

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