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USA Today Examines Why Aid For Haiti Goes Unspent

“Ten months after the magnitude-7 earthquake that killed 230,000 people and destroyed at least 60% of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, some relief agencies have not spent the bulk of the donations they raised after the disaster. They say they want to use the rest for the country’s long-term recovery, but they can’t get rolling because roads are torn up, government agencies aren’t functioning, and the economy is at a standstill. Agencies are also working to contain a rapid-spreading cholera outbreak,” USA Today writes in an article examining aid to Haiti since the quake.  

According to the article, “World Vision has spent half of the $192 million it raised after the Haitian earthquake in January … Partners in Health, which provides health care in developing nations, has spent a third of the $86 million it raised after the disaster … The American Red Cross has spent 39% of the $476 million it raised.”

“There’s a dynamic tension between empowering Haitians vs. providing immediate assistance as quickly as possible carried out by American and European agencies,” according to Michael Wiest, executive vice president of Catholic Relief Services. American Red Cross projects are “subject to regular monitoring,” according to Julie Sell, a spokeswoman for the organization. “Progress reports are submitted monthly, quarterly and annually and HQ and field staff coordinate regularly to monitor and ensure that each project is on track to meet its targets,” she said. “The Red Cross has made a commitment to Haiti to spend $43 million to build transitional shelters. About 1,460 shelters, each housing an average of five people, have been built, Sell says,” the newspaper writes.

Disaster Accountability Project, a watchdog organization, said only six of the 197 aid groups it surveyed in Haiti in July provided detailed, public updates on their projects. “The result, then, is that people base their donations on emotion and not the facts on the ground,” said Ben Smilowitz, founder of the project. As a result, people might give donations to groups that don’t have the capacity for the work or lack the necessary familiarity with local procedures, Smilowitz said.

Randy Strash, World Vision’s strategy director for emergency response; Saundra Schimmelpfennig, creator of The Charity Rater; and Susan Sayers, interim development director for Partners in Health, are also quoted in the article (Bello, 11/30).

In related news, The Daily Beast examines HIV in Haiti, where after the earthquake “destroyed many health facilities,” experts fear “high rates of rape, prostitution, and promiscuity in the camps” might lead to “an explosive increase in the number of new HIV infections.”

The article continues: “Haiti used to be a model for combating AIDS. Experts at first thought the epidemic might wipe out a third of the population. But instead the country became a surprising success story: Thanks to significant financial support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria prevalence rates fell from 9.4 percent in 1993 to 2.2 percent in 2008.”

The story features an HIV-positive woman displaced by the earthquake and also includes quotes from a UNAIDS representative and a local HIV/AIDS advocate (Armstrong, 11/29).

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