MONROVIA, Canada – Of all the criticism directed at relief efforts for Syrian refugees, perhaps the greatest is their lack of coordination. Since the beginning of Syria’s complex civil war, hundreds of bilateral agencies and international NGOs have poured into the region armed with food, shelter and medicine — without talking to each other.
The same problem plagues all mass relief efforts. Multiple organizations with overlapping goals often run into redundancy, conflict, and frustrating inefficiency. Donors are demanding increased communication between relief programs to avoid soaring costs and the unintended consequences of clumsy aid.
In response, World Vision Canada is investing a $900,000 grant in collaborative software to streamline crisis management across organizations. Their idea is a mobile application that centralizes crisis data and provides a platform for crisis-response collaboration.
The app, called Last Mile Mobile Solution (LMMS), eliminates handwritten registration for the first time, giving crisis survivors digital profiles with scan-enabled ID cards. The computerized system could cut registration costs in half, as well as offering more dignity to survivors who previously underwent fingerprinting and cross-examination to access aid.
More importantly, however, the open-source technology is a space for relief programs to easily share information. Now many organizations can coordinate food purchases, facility mapping, and even big-picture goals like service targets.
“You might have a camp where Oxfam wants to do a clean drinking-water program for 10,000 people, MSF wants to do a health project for 15,000, World Vision wants to do a hygiene program for thousands more,” said Bart Witteveen, director of World Vision Canada’s emergency and humanitarian affairs. “This would allow you to share information about the aid recipients between agencies.”
LMMS is part of World Vision’s campaign to coordinate response among aid organizations. World Vision has long called for partnerships for holistic approaches, increased funding for agencies that recognize underlying social problems, and improved consulting on the ground for more effective and coordinated response. Their new app could go far in accomplishing those goals.