Monday, March 08, 2010

Donations growing but so are the complaints

Over 2.2 billion has been donated to Haiti after the earthquake. As the donations have grown, so has the controversy on how the money is spent. Some in Haiti are even calling the NGOs thieves, and the Haitian government is unable to coordinate all of them.

From this Associated Press article that we found at Google News, writer Jonathan Katz has this examination of the donations and the growing criticism.

First the good news: Assistance has indeed been pouring into Haiti, sometimes from unexpected places.

Donations from Americans for earthquake relief in Haiti have surpassed $1 billion, with about one-third going to the American Red Cross, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said Friday. Other major recipients include Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and the U.S. wing of Doctors Without Borders, according to a separate report by the Chronicle for Philanthropy.

An analysis of U.N. data shows that private donations make up the bulk of the total, accounting for more than $980 million of what has already been delivered or that donors have promised.

The United States leads all countries with its commitments of $713 million — with Canada, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan and the European Union among other top donors. Saudi Arabia poured $50 million of its oil wealth into the U.N. Emergency Response Relief Fund. Even countries with their own troubles rushed to Haiti's aid: Afghanistan provided $200,000.

A Nevada real estate developer agreed to send $5 million worth of circus tents formerly used by Cirque du Soleil. Leonardo DiCaprio and Coca-Cola are each sending $1 million. Dollar General is donating $100,000. Hanesbrands is shipping 2 million pairs of underwear.

But leaders including Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive are not happy with the way the aid money is being delivered.

"The NGOs don't tell us ... where the money's coming from or how they're spending it," he told The Associated Press. "Too many people are raising money without any controls, and don't explain what they're doing with it."

Saudi Arabia's donation is essentially a blank check for the U.N. fund to spend on Haiti relief as it sees fit. So is Afghanistan's. DiCaprio's million is going through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, while Coca-Cola and Dollar General's donations are headed for the American Red Cross. The underwear is going through the Atlanta, Georgia-based aid group CARE.

The circus tents are for the Haitian government.

In the days immediately after the quake, this is exactly what many Haitians said they wanted. Distrustful of leaders they said were corrupt, some went so far as to say they hoped the U.S. would annex the country.

But the top U.N. official in Haiti said the country's leaders are right: For half a century, the international community has kept Haiti's government weak and unable to deal with disaster by ignoring officials and working with outside organizations.

"We complain because the government is not able to (lead), but we are partly responsible for that," said U.N. Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet.

Worse, the patchwork of roughly 900 foreign and thousands more Haiti-based NGOs do not coordinate, take on too many roles and swarm well-known neighborhoods while leaving others untouched — doing what Mulet called "little things with little impact."

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