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Port-au-Prince Still Buried Under the Rubble of Competing NGOs

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Both OXFAM and the Disaster Accountability Project released reports this week that enhance already serious criticism of the relationship between the Government of Haiti and NGOs, and the inability of both to offer support to the Haitian people. The reports mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that took upwards of 250,000 lives, injured 300,000, and left 1.5 million homeless.

Ask yourselves what's wrong with these pictures?

Port-au-Prince by Georgianne Nienaber

Port-au-Prince by Georgianne Nienaber

Port-au-Prince by Georgianne Nienaber

Adjacent blocks in downtown Port-au-Prince, late November, 2010 (Copyright G.Nienaber)

Today, the  Clinton Bush Haiti Fund  announced new grants and investments totaling $3.4 million that promise sustainability and are "aimed at planting the seeds of long-term economic opportunity across Haiti. Note that The Clinton Bush fund is a separate entity from the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission (HIRC), which takes a broadside from OXFAM.

The OXFAM briefing paper reaches deep and does not flinch from indicting the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission, also led by former president Bill Clinton, as it cites a "year of indecision that has left Haiti's recovery on hold." There is no coordination between donor agencies as they jostle for control of IDP camps and no effort on the part of the Haitian government to take control of reconstruction, the OXFAM Paper says.

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Donors need to stop the "rampant bilateralism -- and the often-contradictory policies and priorities that plague the IHRC. They should also co-ordinate much more closely among themselves in order to avoid gaps and duplication in funding. For example, money has been made available for temporary housing, but almost no funds have been allocated for rubble removal.

The caveat to the OXFAM criticism is that OXFAM itself is a powerful NGO that is looking for its own slice of the money pie. If one reads the OXFAM Progress Report  (a separate document), you can come away with the notion that OXFAM has singlehandedly kept Haiti alive, and this is certainly not the case. Reader, be aware.

The most troubling aspect of OXFAM's presentation of the dire situation in Haiti is that OXFAM links its excellent and accurate analysis of the problems in Haiti to its own "progress report." In fact, if one searched for "OXFAM Haiti Report" on their website you are led directly to their self-aggrandizing "progress report" before you can find their analysis of the reconstruction failures. Of course, the analysis places the blame on other NGOs.

Read the OXFAM documents simultaneously with a critical eye and see what you think.

The Disaster Accountability Project also released their "One Year Report On The Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake." The report finds near "factual-blackout (s)" in relief and aid organizations' regular, detailed reporting. Donors are "giving in the dark," and "appeals to emotion" dominate factual accounting of how and where money is spent, DAP says.

The Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving disaster management systems through policy research and advocacy. DAP was founded in 2007 in reaction to the response to Hurricane Katrina.

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Read the full DAP report here.

The report examined 196 organizations that solicited donations for Haiti disaster relief. It determines whether they produced regular, factual reports, the accessibility of the reports, and how the monies raised were spent.

"The fact that nearly half of the donated dollars still sit in the bank accounts of relief and aid groups does not match the urgency of their own fundraising and marketing efforts and donors' intentions, nor does it covey the urgency of the situation on the ground. This may be a disincentive for future giving by individuals and other governments," said Ben Smilowitz, DAP's Executive Director.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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NGOs need to be purged of:1) The greedy profit mot... by Mac McKinney on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 12:16:21 AM
While The OXFAM finger pointing has been reported,... by Georgianne Nienaber on Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 at 7:25:00 AM