VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
A measure of commitment
December 13, 2011 by Semir Tanovic
|An IRC doctor examines a malnourished child in a hospital on the outskirts of Liberia's capital city, Monrovia. Fifteen years of civil war left the country's healthcare system in ruins. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC|
The International Rescue Committee stands out in many ways from other humanitarian organizations. This may sound like a boast, but it is no exaggeration to say that we help millions of people every year, staying on as they recover from war or disaster. That commitment is reflected in the dedication of my IRC colleagues, many of whom devote not only their professional careers but also a portion of their paychecks to supporting our work.
IRC staff braved shelling and sniper attacks to bring the residents of Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, clean water to drink and natural gas for heat – helping them endure the longest siege in modern history. As the war continued and it became clear to my family that we had no choice but to leave our homeland, it was the IRC that helped us apply for sanctuary in the United States.
A similar process happens elsewhere in our work around the world: I remember one young man I met in the Nuba Mountains of southern Sudan. Growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya during Sudan’s civil war, he received an education from the IRC that helped him get a scholarship and graduate from college. When I met him, he had just returned to Sudan as a part of a repatriation program run by the IRC. He was working for the local government as an education coordinator, helping his community rebuild.
I work in the IRC’s Global Supply Chain unit, where we are known to constantly measure everything, from the time stamps on correspondence to the weight of an extra fuel tank in a vehicle. For us, “measure” is a very important word, one we pronounce with a capital “M.”
Just 10 or 15 years ago, the general public had no idea how much money humanitarian organizations spent on their operational costs vs. how much they spent on programs and services that directly benefit people. When the word got out that the IRC’s program percentage was over 90% — an impressive measure of our committment and efficiency — we were placed on the top of “best charities” lists by leading publications like Time, Forbes and Money.
I am proud to say that I work for the IRC.
Semir Tanovic is the director of the IRC’s Global Supply Chain. He is based in New York.