Saturday, October 6, 2007

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

I always liked that bumper sticker. And is particularly appropriate when looking at Southern Sudan. Last week I attended a presentation of the findings of the first household survey for the south since the 1970's that was just completed and the statistics were just apalling in every possible way. So here are some of them for the 10 states in South Sudan just to put things in perspective:

-Primary school attendance: most states less than 10% with the lowest 4% and the highest 45%.
-Secondary school attendance: 5 states 0% (that means there are no highschools in half the states of this country) with the highest 12%. In one state, those with schools only male students attend.
-Female literacy: 4 states have 0% female literacy, with the highest at 7%.
-Infant mortality rate: 102 deaths for every 1000 live births (to put this in perspective, the US rate is 6/1000)
-Under-5 mortality rate: 135 per 1000 (US rate = 8/1000)
-Maternal mortality rate: 2037 maternal deaths out of 100,000 (this is the highest in the world. the US rate = 17/100,000)
-more than 60% of women have no ante-natal care
-Contraceptive prevalence rate: 5 states have 0% modern contraception
-Drinking water: 30% of households have access to "improved" drinking water; 87% households have no access to treated water

Seriously. How are you supposed to design education materials when no one can read? We pretested brand names/logos for packaging and had to completely redo the questionnaire because it was a lot about the visual association of the word and graphics and that point is completely moot here. It's just a completely different way of working and viewing the world and my role here. I realized this week that none of the work I produce here is going to measure up to my standards of quality, so I need to shift how I measure success and failure. Is success designing a perfect radio spot or brilliant creative brief? Probably not. Success will be training and building the capacity of the people who work with me to make their own new country better. And it will also be getting through the day and maybe eventually the week without becomeing depressed or overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine here, just trying to feel out what is going to work for me and what isn't when considering I'll be here for 2 years.

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