More managers needed to tackle Ebola recovery phase

Anthony Banbury speaks with community leaders during a townhall meeting in Liberia for the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response. Photo by: WHO / CC BY-ND

Development organizations working on the ground in West Africa are reviewing their recruitment policies to address new priorities as the struggle against Ebola moves from the emergency to the recovery phase.

Specific skills required, though, will depend on the roles each organization will acquire in the recovery phase.

Insiders tapped by Devex agreed that the challenge is no longer about getting people to go to Ebola-affected regions, but rather finding the right people to get the job done in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“I think in common with lots of iNGOs, we struggled to get people to go at the beginning — at first that was quite difficult,” Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman said in an interview with Devex in Brussels. “Now, there’s much more movement going on, so we will have to draw upon the talents we've got and we’ll have to look externally, because if we've got major grants in those three countries in the recovery phase, than we’ll have to recruit new people.”

Oxfam, on the other hand, would like to focus on recruiting for social mobilization, which so far has not been a priority for donors.

Community engagement is “one of the exciting opportunities that we need to really build on, and that we need the right skills on how to get the best out of those amazing community volunteers,” Oxfam Great Britain CEO Mark Goldring told Devex.

To address that challenge — and also work on other problems including education and sanitation — Goldring said implementers can bring in technical experts, “but we need to work with community organizations and government structures if they're going to work well in the long term.

“That's where the partnership’s needed,” he stressed.

Ebola: Moving from emergency to recovery

As the death toll from Ebola now tops 10,000 in West Africa, donors and aid implementers are figuring out how to best transition from the emergency to the recovery phase of the crisis. Devex got the inside track from EU Development Commissioner Neven Mimica and the heads of Oxfam GB and Plan International.

Chapman insisted that any scaling up of staff in West Africa will “depend on how successful we are in bidding for new resources, and where those resources are.”

Some funding would likely come from a top donor such as the European Union, and EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development told Devex that partners should be reassured that Brussels will continue to fund development projects beyond direct budget support in Ebola-affected countries.

“There are a lot of concrete projects that are to be completed on the ground by those who are the best placed, the best experienced in that regard,” he explained. “I would envisage even higher levels of engagement of civil society organizations, NGOs, and also the private sector in those, in the implementation efforts, because now we really need quite experienced, quite professional, and quite speedy implementation of the development projects.”

The difference now, Mimica pointed out, is that organizations on the ground won’t need as many health workers, but rather more managers and senior experts to help strengthen local health and sanitation systems, before shifting the focus to other development priorities including — but not limited to — education, agriculture and energy.

“We now very much need a common effort and response to bring together all these priority sectors. But to take them forward means managerial skills are needed for the programs that will take place on the ground,” Mimica concluded.

What other talent is needed as Ebola response moves from emergency to recovery? Have your say by leaving a comment below.

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    Richard Jones

    In his role as Editorial Director Richard oversees content for digital series, reports and events, leading a talented team of writers and editors, conducting high-level video interviews and moderating panels at events. Previously partnerships editor and an associate editor at Devex, Richard brings to bear 15 years of experience as an editor in institutional communications, public affairs and international development. Based in Barcelona, his development experience includes stints in the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Ecuador, as well as extensive work travel in Africa and Asia.