Center for Economic and Policy Research, Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch
Monday will mark the six month anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, yet the situation on the ground remains dire. Despite billions in donor pledges and over a billion in private donations from the US alone, the relief and recovery efforts are simply not moving fast enough. A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) report this week notes, “that whilst the overall relief effort has kept many people alive, it is still not easing some of their greatest suffering.” MSF is “very concerned about the lack of progress overall” in the provision of shelter, adding:
By far the biggest threat to people’s living conditions is the failure to provide any substantial, robust shelter. Sheeting and tents were never anything more than a very temporary solution. They [sheeting and tents] have a life expectancy of around six months.
The report adds that the challenges extend beyond just shelter:
At the same time there are big challenges that are not being resolved by the wider relief and reconstruction effort. There is just one waste dump for the city, which is full to overflowing. No alternative has been decided on and the rainy season is compounding the problems of access and pollution. Large parts of the city are at sea level, so latrines should be emptied very regularly. They are not. In the camps, the inadequate provision adds to the likelihood that heavy rains will wash sewage through the living areas.
Why have relief efforts moved so slowly? One partial answer is the slow distribution of funds. ABC news, who is running a series of reports on the six month anniversary, reports that:
The lack of progress is not for lack of funding. Between 23 major charities, $1.1 billion has been collected for Haiti for relief efforts. But only 2 percent of the funds donated to the impoverished nation have been released, and only 1 percent has been used on operations.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy released new figures yesterday, which show that “U.S. relief groups have received $1.3-billion to aid earthquake survivors.” Yet, as the Chronicle notes:
But progress on the greatest need as Haiti moves into hurricane season—construction of transitional shelters, simple wood or steel-frame structures that can be anchored to the ground—has been negligible.
Two of the largest benefactors of the $1.3 billion are the Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services. A CBS News investigation two months agofound both organizations had spent less than 25 percent of the donations received for Haiti relief. Two months later, little has changed. According to the American Red Cross, they have “raised approximately $468 million for the Haiti relief and recovery efforts, spending nearly a third of the money – $148.5million – in the first six months.” Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that Catholic Relief Services “has used only $30.6-million of the $140.8-million, or 22 percent, of the money it raised.” Although both organizations defended their slow pace of spending in the CBS News investigation by pointing out the need for prudence, Doctors Without Borders provides an excellent counter example. MSF, playing a key role in nearly all aspects of the relief effort, have “already spent $65.2-million of the $112-million, or 58 percent, of what it raised from donors around the world.”
In addition to slow spending by private charities, donor countries have been slow to make good on their pledges. Although $5.4 billion was pledged over the next two years ($10 billion long term) at the UN Donor Conference in New York, as of one month ago, only Brazil had fulfilled their pledge. At the same time, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon recently warned:
that immediate humanitarian assistance is only being funded at 60 per cent. Donors must be held accountable for their pledges, he said.
“I would urge that there should be an accountability that when they have a pledge to this money they should immediately deliver this aid,” Ban told the BBC.
Six months after the earthquake, despite billions in donations and pledges, the situation on the ground remains dire. With transitional housing still lacking, the hurricane season under way, and billions of dollars on the table, it is imperative that aid agencies and donor countries act quickly to live up to their pledges and spend the money now, when people need it the most.
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