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Haiti: Seven Places Where the Earthquake Money Did and Did Not Go

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Haiti, a close neighbor of the US with over nine million people, was devastated by earthquake on January 12, 2010.   Hundreds of thousands were killed and many more wounded.  

The UN estimated international donors gave Haiti over $1.6 billion in relief aid since the earthquake (about $155 per Haitian) and over $2 billion in recovery aid (about $173 per Haitian) over the last two years.

Yet Haiti looks like the earthquake happened two months ago, not two years. Over half a million people remain homeless in hundreds of informal camps, most of the tons of debris from destroyed buildings still lays where it fell, and cholera, a preventable disease, was introduced into the country and is now an epidemic killing thousands and sickening hundreds of thousands more.  

It turns out that almost none of the money that the general public thought was going to Haiti actually went directly to Haiti.  The international community chose to bypass the Haitian people, Haitian non-governmental organizations and the government of Haiti.  Funds were instead diverted to other governments, international NGOs, and private companies.   

Despite this near total lack of control of the money by Haitians, if history is an indication, it is quite likely that the failures will ultimately be blamed on the Haitians themselves in a "blame the victim" reaction.   

Haitians ask the same question as many around the world "Where did the money go?"

Here are seven places where the earthquake money did and did not go.

One.  The largest single recipient of US earthquake money was the US government.  The same holds true for donations by other countries.

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Right after the earthquake, the US allocated $379 million in aid and sent in 5000 troops.   The Associated Press discovered that of the $379 million in initial US money promised for Haiti, most was not really money going directly, or in some cases even indirectly, to Haiti.  They documented in January 2010 that thirty three cents of each of these US dollars for Haiti was actually given directly back to the US to reimburse ourselves for sending in our military.  Forty two cents of each dollar went to private and public non-governmental organizations like Save the Children, the UN World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization.  Hardly any went directly to Haitians or their government.

The overall $1.6 billion allocated for relief by the US was spent much the same way according to an August 2010 report by the US Congressional Research Office: $655 million was reimbursed to the Department of Defense; $220 million to Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to individual US states to cover services for Haitian evacuees; $350 million to USAID disaster assistance; $150 million to the US Department of Agriculture for emergency food assistance; $15 million to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration fees, and so on.

International assistance followed the same pattern.  The UN Special Envoy for Haiti reported that of the $2.4 billion in humanitarian funding, 34 percent was provided back to the donor's own civil and military entities for disaster response, 28 percent was given to UN agencies and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) for specific UN projects, 26 percent was given to private contractors and other NGOs, 6 percent was provided as in-kind services to recipients, 5 percent to the international and national Red Cross societies, 1 percent was provided to the government of Haiti, four tenths of one percent of the funds went to Haitian NGOs. 

Two.  Only 1 percent of the money went to the Haitian government. 

Less than a penny of each dollar of US aid went to the government of Haiti, according to the Associated Press.   The same is true with other international donors.  The Haitian government was completely bypassed in the relief effort by the US and the international community.   

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Three.   Extremely little went to Haitian companies or Haitian non-governmental organizations. 

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, the absolute best source for accurate information on this issue, analyzed all the 1490 contracts awarded by the US government after the January 2010 earthquake until April 2011 and found only 23 contracts went to Haitian companies.  Overall the US had awarded $194 million to contractors, $4.8 million to the 23 Haitian companies, about 2.5 percent of the total.  On the other hand, contractors from the Washington DC area received $76 million or 39.4 percent of the total.  As noted above, the UN documented that only four tenths of one percent of international aid went to Haitian NGOs.

In fact Haitians had a hard time even getting into international aid meetings.  Refugees International reported that locals were having a hard time even getting access to the international aid operational meetings inside the UN compound.  "Haitian groups are either unaware of the meetings, do not have proper photo-ID passes for entry, or do not have the staff capacity to spend long hours at the compound."  Others reported that most of these international aid coordination meetings were not even being translated into Creole, the language of the majority of the people of Haiti! 

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http://www.loyno.edu/~quigley/

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans.

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Billions of earthquake relief supposed to go to Ha... by Bill Quigley on Wednesday, Jan 4, 2012 at 9:42:23 AM