This job began as a representative role in Zimbabwe, under a regional operational structure for drought response that was based in Jo’burg, but evolved into a formal HoD role working with Zimbabwe Red Cross, which reported to the regional Delegation, also in Harare.
It was fascinating to return to Zimbabwe after many years, this time with family in tow, and rediscover this beautiful country.
This was the time that the link between malnutrition and HIV/Aids was becoming clear, and the relief programme – which targeted the clients of ZRCS’s huge Home-Based Care programme – provided opportunities for action research, and we built an innovative monitoring system which allowed us to switch from household to family rations in times of drought on the basis of clear objective criteria, which produced some really concrete outcomes for people.
With hindsight, this aspect of the programme had all the features of a ‘crisis modifier’ – it took a safety net programme, and gained prior approval from donor (DFID) and partner (WFP) to increase the ration in response to a real-time, objective indicator. Innovation indeed!
2005 brought with it Operation Murambatsvina, which displaced thousands of people in high density suburbs ahead of the elections. ZRCS was well placed to provide both direct help to people, and valuable information from its urban hubs, and I was very involved in coordination.
Hyperinflation, food and fuel shortages, civil unrest, and challenging coordination conditions made this a very interesting mission. Not to mention being a Brit in an ex colony…