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[afro-nets] RFI: Fight against malaria - Media Effectiveness (2)

  • From: "Peter Burgess" <profitinafrica@gmail.com>
  • Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2006 15:21:29 -0400

RFI: Fight against malaria - Media Effectiveness (2)

Dear Colleagues


Yesterday was a horrible day. In the course of 24 hours 6 Boeing 747s each full of 500 African children crashed in New Jersey less than 50 miles from the Gound Zero World Center disaster of September 11, 2001. Almost the same number of people died in the 9/11 terrorist attack as died yesterday in the crash of the 6 Boeing 747s full of African children.

This is almost a true story. The only facts wrong are the method of dying and the place. I believe if the above was the story, then the media would give it some serious attention ... TV evening network news, TV morning show news, talk shows, print media frontpage above the fold, etc. ... the works.

The fact is almost this. Part of this story unfolds every day ... around 3,000 African children die every day from malaria every day and the media might as well not exist.

This is not news ... and the story is old ... and there is no reason for the media to pay attention. Especially mainstream media that has business survival as its priority. Readers are not interested. Readers don't care, because they have no idea that this crisis is existing and ongoing and leaders are quite happy with the obscene status quo.

But maybe somewhere there is a story. The UN, World Bank, donors, leadership generally in the relief and development sector (RDS) have ignored this crisis in a totally unacceptable way. We know that these institutions have done rather little of success in the field of malaria impact reduction in the past 30 years. But because there is little easily accessible public information about WHY and HOW the RDS community has come to be so unsuccessful, nobody seems interested in writing up the failure. Getting the story from the press releases of the RDS organizations is not going to do much good ... but where else to get information? I am not a journalist, so I don't know how journalists work.

But I am an accountant and I have a lot of experience with operations analysis and management information. My contention is that the management of the RDS is dysfunctional, and the organizations can maintain a dysfunctional status quo because the management information that it uses is, at best, very, very limited. Because the management information is weak, decisions are based on opinions, power structures, personal agendas, and so forth ... rarely for the benefit of legitimate beneficiaries. And even good programs easily get subverted because the accounting and accountability is primitive.

My own organization is developing a methodology for the analysis of relief and development sector performance based on value analysis ... everything has a cost, and the result of any activity is something. What is the value of this something? Is it bigger than the cost, in which case there is value creation. Is it smaller than the cost, in which case there is value destruction. Apply this to any and all activities of the relief and development sector, and it soon becomes very clear than a big proportion of the activities are in the value destruction mode.

No wonder the relief and development sector has done so little, in spite of quite substantial fund flows into the system.


Peter Burgess
The Transparency and Accountability Network