herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Angry Haitians turn against charities as row rages over how to spend aid millions

The bill for the Haitian earthquake is large and growing -- now €2.6bn -- and so is the criticism about how the money is being spent.

A half-million homeless received tarps and tents. Far more are still waiting under soggy bed sheets in camps that reek of human waste.

More than 4.3 million people got emergency food rations but few will be able to feed themselves anytime soon.

Medical aid went to thousands, but long-term care isn't even on the horizon.

International aid groups and officials readily acknowledge they are overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

Haitian leaders -- frustrated that billions are bypassing them in favour of UN agencies and American and other non-governmental organisations -- are whipping up sentiment against foreign aid groups they say have gone out of control.

In the past few days, someone scrawled graffiti declaring 'Down With NGO Thieves' along the cracked walls that line the road between Port-au-Prince's international airport, the temporary government headquarters, and a UN base.

Ahead of a crucial March 31 post-quake donors conference in New York, many are taking a hard look at the money that's flowed in so far.

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 $1bn (€.75bn) with about one-third going to the American Red Cross.





Troubles

The US leads all countries with its commitments of $713m -- with Canada, France, Spain, Britain, Japan and the EU among other top donors.

Saudi Arabia poured €26 million of its oil wealth into the UN Emergency Response Relief Fund. Even countries with their own troubles rushed to Haiti's aid -- Afghanistan provided €148,000.

A Nevada real estate developer agreed to send circus tents formerly used by Cirque du Soleil. Leonardo DiCaprio and Coca-Cola are each sending €750,000.

But leaders including the country's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, are not happy with the way the aid money is being delivered.

"Too many people are raising money without any controls, and don't explain what they're doing with it," he said.

Haiti wanted aid organisations to register with the government long before the quake, a goal identified as a priority by former US President Bill Clinton when he was named UN special envoy in 2009. But it was never completed.

hnews@herald.ie

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