Too many donors spoil the broth

The fragmented nature of donations is hindering efforts to implement aid effectively in developing countries

Tanzania receives aid from over 50 countries worldwide in addition to donations from international agencies and institutions. In a country where aid is much needed, Tanzania does all it can to facilitate the money into the economy but the number of financial sources causes problems.Not only does every donor have a different set of conditions and procedures to apply for aid but they all want to know that what they give is being used as effectively as possible. To this end, each will request an annual report to outline progress following a financial donation. Tanzania has to produce around 2,400 reports each year for creditors.

Multilateral institutions – international organisations made up of member governments such as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations – require even more paperwork to justify donations. The Tanzanian government submits 8,000 reports to multilateral development banks each year.

These official procedures undermine Tanzania’s actual deployment of the aid it receives. Money is not used effectively and gets tied up in red tape instead of helping people as charities and beneficiaries intend.

“There is a tremendous fragmentation of overseas aid initiatives and activities,” says Andy Haines, Professor of Public Health & Primary Care at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “[This is] causing stress at a national level. Each [donor] has their own demands for health intervention, which creates inefficiencies.”  

Montage of logos helping NTDs

The myriad of institutions involved in the plight of NTDs

The problem of uncoordinated and disjointed aid is in no way confined to Tanzania, nor to national aid. The eradication of neglected tropical diseases is funded by a plethora of well-meaning organisations with varying degrees of engagement. WaterAid provides lateral benefit through better sanitation whereas pharmaceutical companies are directly involved in providing drugs.

For a country with a governing body, the harmonisation of aid can be achieved through the establishment of a regulator; in this case the Tanzania Assistance Strategy (TAS). Improved coordination between donors and the development of a homogeneous set of conditions for accreditation is measured with set targets from the TAS.

NTDs don’t have this luxury. There is no governing body to regulate donations or decide where aid goes so that the money is most effectively distributed. Individual countries have their own disease initiatives, but aggregating and analysing unconnected objectives across NTD-afflicted countries is nigh on impossible.  

“Money alone is not enough, countries have to develop institutional capacity and human resources for aid harmonisation,” says Haines.

Luckily a number of organisations have been set up to monitor the effectiveness of aid harmonisation and the Third Paris High Level Forum (PHLF) ran in 2008 to address issues of effective aid management. How effective these aid harmonising strategies will be remains to be seen.


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