Friday, January 15, 2010

Making sure the Haiti donations are properly spent

Now that we have sent all of this money to Haiti, the challenge is making sure the money is properly spent.

Before the earthquake, 60 percent of Haitians couldn't afford to buy food. Before the earthquake, 1 in 8 children in Haiti died before the age of five. Before this disaster, Haiti had few roads, little safe drinking water and not much electricity.

So the challenge is after the victims of the earthquake have been healed, how do we insure that all the money donated will bring basic services to the country. For money has been given to the country before, and it was in bad shape before the earthquake.

From this Canadian Press article that we found at Google News, writer Sharon Theimer looks into the donations to Haiti made in the past, and the corruption that prevented from being used as intended.

Corruption, theft and other crime and Haiti's sheer shortage of fundamentals - reliable roads, telephone and power lines and a sound financial system - add to the difficulty as foreign governments and charities try not only to help Haiti recover from the disaster but pull itself out of abject poverty.

It is one of the poorest places on Earth. Most basic public services are lacking, people typically live on less than $2 a day, nearly half the population is illiterate and the government has a history of instability. The public has little opportunity to be sure that aid to the government is used honestly and well. Nor is following the money easy for donors, including the United States, 700 miles (1,126 kilometres) away and one of the country's biggest helpers.

"It has been a challenge and I think it really is one of the things we have to look at when the country has had such long-standing problems that it seems as though we have made little dent there," said Rep. Russ Carnahan, Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee's subcommittee on international organizations, human rights and oversight.

The immediate focus is search and rescue and addressing immediate public health needs. But after that, "I think there's going to be a number of questions that arise," Carnahan said.

Just last month, a private group, the Heritage Foundation for Haiti, urged Haiti's government to complete an audit of a $197 million emergency disaster program to respond to corruption allegations over how the money was handled. Haiti's senate cited the allegations when it removed Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis in November and replaced her with Jean-Max Bellerive.

"Attention on Haiti is often focused in times of disaster but not necessarily in the long-term," said Rich Thorsten, director of international programs for, a charity working to provide safe drinking water and sewage treatment to Haitians. "Funding that has been available does not necessarily go toward basic infrastructure like water and sanitation."

The Haitian government doesn't use its own resources for sanitation, and instead depends on charities, Thorsten said. In addition, international groups often do not co-ordinate, and there are also problems with security, corruption and political stability, he said.

"It is very important to keep track of the spending, and so when we work with partner organizations we make sure they have detailed accounting systems," he said. Supplies must be guarded, he added.

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