Aid watchdog slates UK-funded water project in Sudan

22 Feb 13
An urban water supply initiative the UK government funded as part of its response to the Darfur conflict in Sudan was poorly designed and failed to its intended beneficiaries, an aid watchdog said yesterday.

By | 22 February 2013

An urban water supply initiative the UK government funded as part of its response to the Darfur conflict in Sudan was poorly designed and failed to its intended beneficiaries, an aid watchdog said yesterday.

The £6.7m project, which was delivered by the United Nations Office for Project Services, also paid ‘insufficient attention to institutional and economic realities’, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact said in a report looking at the water, sanitation and hygiene aspect of the UK’s work in Darfur.

The UK Department for International Development’s response to the conflict, which began in 2003, has been one of its largest ever humanitarian operations. As part of this it has been the largest donor to another UN-led initiative, the Common Humanitarian Fund, through which it has spent £36m since 2006.

Initially, the emergency response offered by the UN-CHF ed to save lives by contributing to a reduction in the incidence of water-borne disease, the ICAI noted. But it also found that as the Darfur conflict had become protracted, the large-scale humanitarian support it offered had acted as a ‘disincentive’ for people displaced by the conflict to return home.

The watchdog was more positive about a third water, sanitation and hygiene project which the DFID delivered in direct partnership with the non-governmental organisation Tearfund. This initiative, which DFID spent £2.8m on, has contributed to a community-based approach which offers a real prospect of a strong and sustainable impact, the report found.

This project alone would have received a ‘green’ rating for performing well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money, but the watchdog gave the water, sanitation and hygiene programme as a whole an ‘amber-red’ rating. This means it had performed relatively poorly overall against its criteria and should be significantly improved.

In particular, it called on the department to phase out its annual funding for the UN-CHF and to instead make longer-term grants available to delivery partners which could offer ‘sustainable interventions’.

The DFID should also rethink its approach to chronic long-term disasters in light of its experiences in Sudan. ‘DFID should ensure that its WASH policy framework prioritises early planning for transition from emergency assistance through early recovery to development programming in the context of protracted and chronic crises,’ the ICAI said.

A spokesman for the DFID labelled the ICAI report ‘outdated’ and claimed that the UK had already transformed its humanitarian response in Sudan to address the root causes of conflict rather than simply relying on emergency aid,.

‘Our new programmes will the poorest people to become better able to cope with the impact of conflict or man-made disasters, such as being able to access local markets and regular food supplies,’ he said.

He added: ‘Almost ten years on from the start of the conflict in Darfur, the report is right to acknowledge that our aid has ed save countless lives in a country where so many have been forced from their homes and almost three million people still rely on food aid for survival.’

The ICAI gave a more positive assessment of the DFID’s work in Nepal and India in two other reports published yesterday. The department’s £33m project to reduce poverty in the Western Odisha region of India by building infrastructure and supporting community-based business was rated ‘green’.

And, five DFID-funded peace and security projects aimed at supporting Nepal’s transition to peace were rated ‘green-amber’, which means they performed relatively well in terms of effectiveness and value for money.

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