Monday 21 May 2012

Haiti: Donations and Money

Susan Brannon
21 May 2012
Haiti, Donations and the Money

I have been hearing a lot lately that everyone is scared to donate to non-profits anymore and the non profits are needing donation to keep their work  moving in Haiti.  There was a documentary film titled, "Where did all the money go?" by filmmaker, Michele Mitchell.  The film raised a lot of questions and alarmed quite a few people. With myself living abroad, it is not so easy to view these films, and I have not seen it, but I have heard of the effects of this film due to ever decreasing donations to a variety of non-profits.

The non-profits are responding with new "transparency" guidelines so the donors can see exactly where the money does go.  We all know that it does cost something to keep a non profit going, the employees do need a salary in order to survive, an office needs to exist in order to communicate and there are travel expenses, organizing expenses, visibility expenses, research expenses and so on.  This is understandable, but what about the tons of money that is spent on CEO salaries for example, one known non-profit's CEO receives a $500,000 yearly salary.  It reminds me of the corporate CEO scandals, you know one of the CEO's for a defense contractor just purchased an apartment in New York for 12 million dollars.  That is what happens with our tax money, and now we are concerned about what happens with our good hearts donating money for "great causes" to help those who need help…even when we can use a helping hand.

I am not down on helping others by no means, I am a volunteer director of a non-profit for Haiti, a real grassroots organization.  This means that we really work with local Haitians, and their organizations and try to help provide them with the tools and education so they can learn to get on their own feet in spite of the economic crisis.  I am not paid.  I have to pay my own way, plane and all and from overseas that is not inexpensive.  Our donor amount has tumbled almost to nothing, yet we are hanging on and it is our true vision to make a difference, one life, one person at a time.

I must admit, in some ways, it is really difficult for me to watch the UN workers make $5,000 a month with free room and board, great benefits free transportation.  While locals who are lucky enough to work with them, get paid 1/4 to 1/10th of that wage while reading about the tons of waste in the money that has been donated from concerned people worldwide.

Anyway, this article was not intended as a place for me to whine about my own personal anger on this issue but about what happened to the money that was donated to Haiti?
  • There is an estimated $12 Billion dollars that was donated over the past two years worldwide.  However, the figures do vary but this is what I have found so far:
  • The UN estimated that international donors gave Haiti over $1.6 billion (about $155.00 per Haitian) and over $2 billion in recovery aid (about $173.00 per Haitian)  This money bypassed the Haitian government and Haitian existing non-governmental organizations, and diverted back into their own governments and external international non-profits and private companies. 
  • The United States allocated $379 million in aid and sent in 5000 troops. An Associated Press investigation discovered that from that money 33 cents of each dollar went back to the US for reimbursement for sending the military; 42 cents of each dollar went to private and public non-profits like Save the Children, the UN World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization.  That left .25 cents to give to the Haitians and/or their government.

The United States allocated $1.6 billion in relief money, spent in about the same way:
$655 million was reimbursed to the Department of Defense
$220 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for grant to individual US states to cover services for Haitian evacuees
$350 million to USAID
$150 million to the US department of Agriculture for food assistance
$15 million to the Department of Homeland Security (?) for immigration fees.

International assistance spending was about the same as America:
They started with around $2.4 billion dollars
34% went back to the donor's civil and military for disaster response
28% was given to UN agencies, and non-profit agencies, specific to UN projects
26% went to private contractors and other non-profits
6% provided "in-kind" services to recipients
5% went to the International and national Red Cross
1% went to the Hatian government
get this…four tenths of 1% went to the Haitian non-profits.

The Center of Economic and Policy Research, analyzed all of the 1490 contracts awarded by the US government at the sum of around $194 million:
$4.8 million went to 23  Haitian companies (2.5% of the total)
$76 million (39.4%) went to Washington DC contractors…
I could not find out where the rest went…

A further breakdown:
  • The American Red Cross received over $486 million in donations.  They say that two-thirds went to contracted for relief and recovery efforts, yet the details of those efforts are not transparent.  The CEO receives a yearly salary of $500.00 per year for example, and could be part of the spending.
  • USAID received $8.6 million under a joint contract with CHF for debris removal.  CHF is a well-connected international development company with an annual budget of over $200 million.  Their CEO made $451,813 in 2009.  They are a partner with the Livingston Group, headed by the former Republican Speaker-designate for the 106th Congress, Bob Livingston for lobbying and government relations.  He was appointed by President Clinton to serve in the Department of Commerce and as a member of the foreign policy expert advisor for the Obama President Campaign.  CHF has two spacious mansions in Port au Prince and maintains a fleet of brand new vehicles.  (Rolling Stone)
  • $1.5 million was contracted to the NY based consulting firm Dalberg Global Development Advisors.  The team has never lived overseas, did not have disaster experience or background in urban planning and has never carried out any program activities on the ground.  To top that off, only one employee spoke French.

I am sure that you remember the advertisements when George W. Bush and Bill Clinton teamed together for a fundraising venture for Haiti?  They receive $54 million dollars from the American public.  Did you ever wonder what happened to that money?  Well, they donated $2 million towards the construction of a Haitian $29 million for profit luxury hotel.  However, they did partner with several Haitian and international organizations.

Some of the money did not get there:
UN countries pledged $5.3 billion over two years and a total of $9.9 billion over three years.  The money was to be deposited into the World Bank and distributed by the IHRC, who was co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister.  In July 2010, Bill Clinton reported that only 10 percent of the pledges had been given to the IHRC.

As of 2012 (January) less than 1% of the $412 million US funds that were allocated for infrastructure reconstruction activities has been spent by USAID and the US State Department.  Only 12% has been obligated, according to the US Government Accountability Office.  The Miami Herald noted as of July 2011, $3.2 billion in projects approved by the IHRC commission (Interim Haiti Recovery Commission) but only five have been completed with a total of $84 million.  The IHRC, has been criticized by the Haitians and has been suspended as of October 2011. The Haiti reconstruction fund was set up to partner with IHRC, and while they are suspended…no one can move forward.

The problems:
  • It is reported that 37,000 NGO's are operating in Haiti.  There is a communication problem between the non-profits, the Haitians, the International NGOs (non profits), and the local government as well as the UN. There is a chronic lack of accountability and transparency as to where and how the money is to be spend/or being spent.
  • The Haitians were never included or consulted as to where the money should go and what they needed to rebuild their own country.  How would you feel if another country came into yours to "help" but never involved your government in the process?  After all, it is these people who will need to continue to re-build their country when all the money is gone.
  • Many foreign organizations prohibit staff from traveling through certain areas of Port-au-Prince, or they’re forbidden to visit without an SUV with locked doors and windows, a local driver, and a security detail. Private security companies and insurance policies often dictate such travel guidelines. Offices and housing for foreign NGOs and aid agencies working in Haiti are concentrated in Pétion-Ville, an affluent section of the capital home to classy hotels and vibrant restaurants. But the concentration of expats also presents a cluster of targets for crime; the relatively upscale area can be just as dangerous as many other parts of the city. In March 2010, for example, two Swiss employees of the NGO Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped in Pétion-Ville after a night on the town and held for one week. The organization would not disclose whether it paid a ransom for their release.
Kramer with Doctor's Without Borders, says "many of the security measures that foreign organizations take actually increase risks for aid workers, because the restrictions hinder international staff’s ability to forge relationships with locals and build community ties—further hampering their ability to work effectively and efficiently."

She describes it from locals’ point of view: “You come into my neighborhood and you’re already afraid of me? Well, that’s offensive. So I think it engenders a feeling immediately of sort of defensiveness in communities, understandably.” And aid projects suffer as well. She says that she’s sensed tremendous frustration among international employees working with large NGOs who feel disconnected from the people they’re here trying to help.

Two researchers for the Center for Global Development, Ramachandran and Walz point out, the authors of the review couldn’t determine the effectiveness or impact of aid because of a “disquieting lack of data.” "Part of the problem seems to stem from how data collection and management is viewed by aid workers and USG employees, who made up the vast majority of sources for the review. The report states:
  •  During the Haiti response, limitations related to information management followed two major lines. First, there were limited data available for tactical and operational decisions; and second, there were overwhelming requests for data and information from policy leaders in Washington that made systematic data collection more difficult. These demands were often driven by reports in the media."
Related links:
Dady Chery
Medecins Sans Frontiers
IPS News 
Haiti:  Quick Facts
The Crossing Borders Facebook Group
The Crossing Borders You Tube Page
The Crossing Borders on Idealist  Looking for volunteers worldwide

No comments:

Post a Comment