Taking responsibility seriously, even in emergencies

Last weekend I travelled to Batticaloa in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, which was severely affected by floods. I travelled with Save the Children teams to many remote villages to distribute household utensils, hygiene kits, essentials for infants, and tarpaulin.

I was amazed to see how each team spent a good deal of time at each distribution centre first to verify the beneficiary list prepared by the village welfare officer. Each Divisional Secretary of the government had to endorse the list to ensure that the people identified in the list have really been affected by floods.

After the lists were verified, the team called all the beneficiaries and first explained to them what they are entitled to receive and showed every item in the pack and explained what they are. The Save the Children team also explained who the donor is and showed the donor’s logo. It was also explained to them as to how and why they have been selected and what other support is on the way.

Infant packs were given to families with children under 12 months. Staff explained why older children are not entitled and what the older children will be receiving. For example; breakfast cereal and clothes. Simply, the baby clothes and nappies will not fit children older than 12 months. 

Beneficiaries were also made aware that these were gifts in kind and they should not sell them.  They were also told to report if the items were not of good quality or if they had anything to complain about.

During the distribution, each beneficiary signed and obtained the relief items. Those who were illiterate and couldn’t sign gave their thumbprints after having it carefully explained to them what they were signing. At the end of the distribution, the village welfare officer signed and placed his/her official seal to endorse that the distribution took place. Delivery notes were signed and sealed. This was followed by obtaining  the final signature of the Divisional Secretary that there was no duplication of distribution.

Wow! I thought, what a lot of paperwork. Every day, the teams came back to base and completed their paperwork way into the night. And even during emergencies, we continue to follow the procedures of being accountable to  our donors, beneficiaries and the government. And that’s what is different about Save the Children. Accountability is one of our core values and we take it very seriously.

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