Building wells in the Covid-19 era

Monday 18 May 2020
We have all heard a similar story; a well-meaning non-governmental organisation ventures off to save the women of a village by building a well in the heart of their community, only to discover that the women preferred to walk the distance to collect water from a nearby source. 

The moral of the story is clear; we should not fix a problem that does not exist. Save the Children puts extensive work into understanding the needs of a beneficiary group, working alongside representatives, authorities and partners, we produce a template that indicates not only what kind of support is needed where, but how much of it we need to give in order to make lasting impact.  

In principle, there should be no more building of wells, for children who need education. 
Similarly, if the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that understanding the needs of beneficiaries, in our case children in South Africa, is worth the deeper research, and that a methodology of fluidity should be adopted, an energy of both reactivity and proactivity is essential. 

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown in South Africa on 23 March, our initial focus as an organisation, was to develop a response strategy that delivered programing remotely, maintaining contact with beneficiaries and partners and respond to the immediate critical needs of children and families with essential food and non-food items.

Since then, we have delivered approximately 9 tons of food across Limpopo and Gauteng and going forward, wherever possible, we will be providing vouchers instead of food parcels, and soon will be providing cash transfers. While this might seem like an abrupt change in direction, it is exactly this type of fluidity that is required by not just ourselves, but by the movement and by our funders, too.  

It is exactly this kind of fluidity in focus that we have seen take hold within the private funding sector; I would venture far enough to suggest that if there is any relationship that shows we are all in this together – as has often been toted – it is our relationship with our private sector partners. As we develop our beneficiary analysis, so too, we develop an analysis of funders; if we won’t build a well for children who need education, we should not be asking a funder whose strategy is to invest in education to help us deliver water tanks. Save the Children and the private sector in equal partnership. 

Now, as we respond to the devastating impacts of Covid-19 and a locked-down economy, we have seen our partners shift their programme investment comfortably to support us in responding to those communities left vulnerable. The work is not nearly done; as lockdown restrictions begin to ease over the next few weeks, many of us soon returning to our physical places of work and children returning to school, our new “Businesses Unusual” will bring new challenges, new needs and new opportunities. We welcome our private and public partners to continue to journey with us to ensure the success of all children in South Africa. 

By Dianne VanDerTuin, Partnerships Manager at Save the Children South Africa

About: Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In South Africa and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.
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