20 April 2011

Keeping Things in Perspective in Central Asia

I think this (ignored) story makes a nice contrast to the Greg Mortenson's very public story.  Here's the opening paragraph:

A derelict hospital refurbished last year to serve as a battered women’s shelter with nearly $750,000 in aid from the US military in Kyrgyzstan has never been used for its intended purpose. The disconnect between the project’s mission and its outcomes, plus its exorbitant cost, is casting doubt on the judiciousness of the Pentagon’s aid spending in the beleaguered Central Asian country.
Looks like CAI isn't the only group in Central Asia who should be questioned about its spending. I think this paragraph is particularly important:
Presented with these observations, the head of the non-governmental organization running the center acknowledged that no women live there and explained that its “direction had changed a bit,” steering away from victims of violence. Zamira Akbagysheva, president of Kyrgyzstan’s Congress of Women, said in an interview on April 14 that a small-scale survey prior to the center’s opening showed that local residents identified their top-priority needs as “trainings,” microfinance loans and classes for children. She also said that “everything is working” at the center, but it was now having “temporary difficulties,” which she attributed alternately to a lack of running water and shortfalls in funding.
It is too common for money to be misspent simply because the aid group didn't spend it on what the people wanted.  It's also too common for money to be spent and then the project is completely ignored by the aid group afterwards.  There's not enough follow-up being done, either to make sure that things are going well, or to make sure that the money was spent wisely.

Yes, CAI and Greg Mortenson have lots of questions that need to be answered.  But so do lots of other people who say they're doing good in Central Asia.

One more bit of perspective from Registan, again.  If Mortenson has used some of the money donated to him in a fraudulent manner, then something needs to be done.  But whether he is a fraud of the worst type or completely absolved, it's certain that the people who are most affected won't be the CAI, or the people who donated, but the people in Central Asia who need schools.  His basic message does still make sense.

It's too bad that's it's nearly impossible to be sure the money you donate to someone is being spent wisely, especially in a place like Central Asia.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Amira. Seriously. It's good to have a different perspective on all this. (Actually, I didn't even know about it until I saw it on your blog. I'm going through a news hiatus right now...)

  2. Amira,

    It seems that Mortensen did use the money fraudulently, often ending up in his own bank accounts.

    Check out this article:

  3. It's evident even from the books, that Mortensen has no personal gift for administration.