The Red Cross recently came under fire after an investigation by NPR and ProPublica revealed widespread mismanagement of funds and lack of accountability for nearly half a billion dollars received post-quake. This lack of accountability, however, is not an isolated issue: Both the lack of adequate response to the cholera epidemic caused by UN peacekeepers and mismanagement of relief funds by USAID show that this problem is widespread. When organizations like these become too focused on pleasing donors and troop-contributing countries, they fail to really help the local populations. This author provides some recommendations on how aid accountability can be improved.
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How Reconstruction in Haiti Went So Wrong
Lauren Carasik, Foreign Affairs
June 21, 2015
In the five years following the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 and displaced nearly two million, approximately $13.5 billion in aid poured into Haiti. Yet many Haitians still lack access to suitable housing, clean water, and proper sanitation. The American Red Cross led U.S. fund-raising efforts. It hauled in nearly half a billion dollars, which it pledged to use for housing and long-term stability. But according to exposés by ProPublica and NPR, thanks to five years of mismanagement, the organization created a total of six permanent homes.
The Red Cross debacle is appalling, but it is only a symptom of a larger problem: the lack of accountability in humanitarian assistance.
Criticisms about the Red Cross’ efforts in Haiti predated the exposé. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, donors expected that their money would go toward meeting the population’s urgent needs. But Haitians and others have long lamented the slow pace of spending. One resident, Simone Charles, told reporters in 2010, “Today marks the sixteenth day that I have been here with the children. I am dying of hunger.” Although some funds were spent on emergency relief, part of the money continued to sit in general accounts or went toward eliminating the group’s $100 million deficit, or was earmarked for extended development projects.
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