I just recently wrote about the squalid conditions in Haiti mostly bereft of any substantive results, despite billions in aid and donations flowing into Haiti.
This report on the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake disaster confirms my belief that a majority of the donation funds are being misused. Highlights, from the article:
A year later, Americans are still seeing images of Haitians living in tents and wondering why. Their $10 dollar text donation may have helped pay for those gray tents with the black stripes. But Ben Smilowitz from The Disaster Accountability Project (www.disasteraccountability.org) says if donors want to know, they should ask.
His watchdog group did just that, asking 200 aid organizations operating in Haiti to detail how much money they raised and how they are spending it. Only 38 of them responded to the survey. Those 38 collectively raised 1.4 billion dollars and say they’ve so far spent about 700 million of it. However, Smilowitz says many refused to state clear goals and provide a breakdown of how they are spending donor money. He says transparency among aid groups is key to evaluating success in Haiti, but realizes it could also point out some flaws.“Flaws could lead to less donations. Do we want honesty and a more effective relief effort? Or do we want groups to amass just huge sums of money and not spend half of it?”
High taxes are also a hindrance to helping hands. Haiti tacks a 40 percent import tax on to everything that crosses the country’s border, from eggs to automobiles. That often forces aid groups to make the hard decision between importing much needed medicine and the means with which to deliver it.
Adam Marlatt of Global DIRT (Disaster Immediate Response Team, www.globaldirt.org) says he’s seen brand-new, fully donated pick-up trucks designated for aid groups sitting idle at the airport for so long, weeds grew up to the windows. The aid groups the trucks were sent for can’t afford, or choose not to spend, the thousands of dollars they would have to pay the Haitian government to use them. It’s like winning a free car, but you can’t afford to pay the taxes on it.
Aid groups are eligible for a tax exemption, but obtaining the exemption is a long and lengthy process. A year later, few who were not operating in Haiti before the quake are eligible for the tax break.
Ben Smilowitz says paying what it takes to operate – and accounting for it – will make a difference. “If these organizations don’t spend the money they have, then what kind of urgency is it for countries to give more?”
The Haitians don’t need any more monetary donations; they need, and deserve, a restructuring of their government and its leaders.