How NGOs are Profiting Off a Grave Situation
Haiti and the Aid Racket
By ASHLEY SMITH
It's now more than a month since the earthquake that laid waste to Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and thrusting millions of people into the most desperate conditions.
But according to the U.S. government, Haitians have a lot to be thankful for.
On February 12, the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten boasted, "In terms of humanitarian aid delivery...frankly, it's working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we've been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake."
Bill Quigley, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, had a simple response to Merten's claim: "What? Haiti is a model of how the international government and donor community should respond to an earthquake? The ambassador must be overworked and need some R&R. Look at the facts."
What are the facts? The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that "more than 3 million people--one in every three Haitians--were severely affected by the earthquake, of whom 2 million need regular food aid. Over 1.1 million people are homeless, many of them still living under sheets and cardboard in makeshift camps. The government of Haiti estimates that at least 300,000 people were injured during the quake."
The Zanmi Lasante Medical Center is located in the Central Plateau of Haiti and delivers health care through a network of clinics. The health center survived the earthquake and delivering aid to the disaster zone. You can donate to the center through the U.S. non-profit organization Partners in Health.
SOPUDEP is a pioneering school in Petionville. The resources of the school and its teachers are being mobilized to assist the neighboring population. You can support the school via the Canadian-based Sawatzky Family Foundation.
So far, the relief effort has only managed to provide 270,000 people with basic shelters like tents. More than 1 million people still have little access to food and water and have to scrape by to find sustenance. Even worse, because the relief operation is so inefficient, Haitians report that some of the food spends so long at the airport that it is rotten by the time it gets to the hungry.
On February 7, thousands of Haitians marched in the Petionville suburb of Port-au-Prince to protest their desperate circumstances and the failure of aid delivery.
Those conditions will only worsen as rainy season approaches. Médicins sans Frontières (MSF) summed up the grave situation:
It's hard to believe that four weeks after the quakes, so many people still live under bedsheets in camps and on the street...One can only wonder how there could be such a huge gap between the promise of a massive financial influx into the country and the slow pace of distribution. MSF is concerned that with the onset of the rainy season, we'll be facing new medical emergencies, when people who are living without shelter come to us with diarrhea or respiratory infections.