U.N. Aid Efforts Lack Coordination With Local Groups In Haiti, Report Says

A Refugees International report, released on Tuesday, says U.N. aid efforts in Haiti since the earthquake have not been sufficiently coordinated with local groups, the New York Times reports. Among other things, the lack of coordinated response has enabled sexual abuse of women and girls in temporary camps, according to Emilie Parry, an aid consultant who helped write the report. She said some girls have been trading sex for shelter and noted that there is no night watch system in the camps, which are housing many of Haiti’s homeless earthquake survivors, according to the newspaper.

The report was based on a 10-day survey during February and makes suggestions for how to improve aid delivery, the New York Times reports. “Closer work with Haitian organizations, as well as better knowledge about conditions, would also enhance the ability of local groups to deal with problems long after the international groups left, Ms. Parry said,” adding that although the U.N. doesn’t actively exclude local groups, they’re basically shut out through a lack of advertising and a “system of passes” required for meetings, the newspaper writes.

The report “also recommended that the United Nations appoint one person responsible for leading the team distributing humanitarian aid in the country, rather than have the responsibility be among many tasks taken on by senior management. Finally, it suggested that the United Nations’ assessments had not delved adequately into the heart of all the temporary camps, where hundreds of thousands of people still lack shelter and other basic needs. The report recommends that the United States government beef up its budget for disaster assistance and that it, too, should coordinate more with local groups” (MacFarquhar, 3/2). 

In related news, the Wall Street Journal examines the post-earthquake aid effort’s effect on local businesses in Haiti. According to the newspaper, “only a tiny fraction” of global donations for earthquake aid has being spent “buying goods from local businesses.” The article notes that the U.S. has spent more than $665 million for Haiti relief and recovery. “Worse, the aid is having the unintended consequence of making life harder for many businesses here, because of competition from free goods brought in by relief agencies. The damage to Haitian companies is making it harder for them to get back on their feet and create the jobs the country needs for a lasting recovery,” according to the newspaper.

“U.S. officials acknowledge that the aid effort has bypassed local businesses, but say the scope of the disaster made getting relief supplies in quickly a priority. They also say they will be buying more products from Haiti as the relief effort shifts to longer-term rebuilding. … Officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is running the relief effort for the U.S. government, say many Haitian businesses were on their knees following the quake and in no shape to handle orders. Quality is another consideration, and products like plastic tarpaulins are being purchased in the U.S. because they can better withstand Haiti’s rainy season, said Carleene H. Dei, AID’s Haiti mission director.”

The article also looks at the prospects for USAID to scale up its work with local businesses. It also includes information about Peace Dividend Trust, a group that “tries to act as a matchmaker for relief organizations and local companies” (Luhnow, 2/3).

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