Travel diary in DR Congo – Episode 2 : First day in the office

Travel diary in DR Congo – Episode 2 : First day in the office

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… the next morning, the UNICEF driver comes looking for me around 7:30. We sit in traffic for half an hour to cover roughly 5 kilometers that separate us from the UNICEF offices (nothing unusual).

“I HAD BEEN USED TO MY CALM OFFICE IN GENEVA…”

I situate myself in the corner designated for me, and I am very quickly absorbed by the constant coming and going that fills the office with life! Messengers, colleagues from other departments, government officials… I get the feeling that I will learn much more by following the conversations and other happenings in this busy meeting place than by reading the official UNICEF or department documents. I had been used to my calm and silent office in Geneva, so it requires a lot of effort to concentrate during my first few days in this new work environment.

Little by little, I get to know my new organization and familiarize myself with its operating style— both rigorous and productive at the same time. My mission? To ensure the quality of the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene program (commonly called “WASH”) and the consistency of its procedures in achieving effective and sustainable results.

“THE HEALTHY VILLAGES AND SCHOOLS PROGRAMME… A POWERHOUSE”

The program “Healthy Villages and Schools,” guiding light of the WASH department, established an impressive system to monitor its reports and data. A real “powerhouse,” it is capable of analyzing the progress of the project in close to 1500 villages and 700 schools located in 11 different provinces in three operational zones of UNICEF, all in quasi real-time! I have never seen that before at the United Nations. To this capacity for monitoring and evaluation is added the visibly tremendous efficiency of the auditing and communications support functions. I am quite simply in awe!

The rhythm and discipline of work in this department remind me of operations in the private sector. Horizontality, efficiency, transparency of results… nothing is left except to verify the impact in the field. That development is not far off, because as we learned during the personnel meeting, the current cholera crisis spared the villages enrolled in the program in so far as there are not any reported victims… what better publicity?

“THE TALK IS FRANK, OPERATIONAL, WITHOUT ANY WAFFLING OR POLITICAL SPEAK”

I realize quite quickly that I am attached to this style, to this overwhelming commitment. My feelings are enhanced because, beyond the quantity of work completed (in French, the Congolese say “abattu”), there is a real talent among the staff members. Moreover, the talk is frank, operational, without any waffling or political speak. We are here to put a finger on anything that doesn’t work. The discussions go deep down to extract the underlying causes, and we are the first to be outraged by our mistakes. In fact, in four words, it is “not the same job’ …and for me it’s the one that I have always dreamed of doing.

I am impressed with my boss: acute, practical wisdom, based on a rich field experience, but still possessing remarkable humility and accessibility. And the finishing touch for United Nations’ staff with more than twenty years of service: he is still indignant! and he acknowledges it!! “I am not ready to forget about it…”

To be continued…

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Anne Cecile Vialle

Anne-Cecile Vialle est chargée d’Assurance Qualité pour le bureau UNICEF RDC. Elle parcourt le pays pour appuyer les bureaux terrain dans l’execution des programmes, pour proposer au management des options visant à augmenter l’efficience et l’efficacité des procédures de travail internes, et in fine visant à optimiser la qualité et durabilité des impacts de l’UNICEF pour les enfants et les femmes en RDC. Son leitmotiv: il y a toujours plus de solutions que de problèmes

Anne-Cecile Vialle is responsible for Quality Control at UNICEF DRC. She travels the country supporting field offices in the implementation of programmes, helping management increase the efficiency and effectiveness of internal work procedures and ultimately optimizing the quality and sustainability of UNICEF’s impact on women and children in the DRC. Her leitmotiv: There are always more solutions than problems!

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