by Vania Andre
It’s 3 a.m. and you can’t sleep. After a few moments of restless tossing, you turn on the TV. The face of a crying, abnormally thin child flashes across the screen. Your heart melts. Then a neatly dressed man appears. With subtle pleading he asks you to make a donation. By donating, he says, you will help that crying child. But in actuality, little, if any of the money you donated will ever directly reach that child.
This is a massive concern haunting the people of Haiti since a flood of money supposedly came “pouring” into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
The majority of the money went to “operating” costs, said Yves Louis-Jacques, founder of the Brooklyn nonprofit New Social Republic, which hopes to slash the reliance on outside aid to Haiti, and the costly administrative process attached.
Only one percent of the $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid and recovery funding that’s been donated to Haiti has actually been received by the Haitian government, according to the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, a United Nations backed initiative. Of that $9.2 billion, about 60 percent of it has been disbursed to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
“Nongovernmental organizations and private contractors have been the intermediate recipients of most of these funds,” according to the Center for Global Development, (CGD) an organization that works to reduce global poverty and inequality.
The bureaucratic black hole has not gone unnoticed. Initiatives to reduce the reliance on international aid have been kicked into high gear recently. The New Social Republic (NSR) and Konbit Pou Edikasayon (KPE) jointly hosted “An Evening of Arts and Music” in May to raise money for their “Empowerment Campaign.” The duo aims to bring sustainable opportunities to Haitians.
“Ninety-three percent of the money donated goes to the kids,” Marlynne Bidos, developing director of KPE said. KPE is a nonprofit organization providing financial support and services toward educating children, with the belief that education is the catalyst for community advancement.
“We strive to give you the tools necessary to put Haiti, your country, back together the way you want,” Bidos said.
KPE finances the education of 27 students, ages 4 to 18, including tuition, school supplies, tutoring, and any other expenses needed to ensure academic success. Unlike most nonprofit organizations, KPE makes all purchases in Haiti to stimulate the local economy.
It may cost more money to purchase items in Haiti, but it’s worth the price to support the local businesses, Bidos said. We’re not doing the country a favor by purchasing goods elsewhere and then shipping them here. “Who’s benefiting from that? UPS, Staples and Wal-mart; while the local machan ends up struggling to sell her merchandise.”
NGOs and private contractors in Haiti have built an extensive financial network under the provision of social services, according to CGD, who tracks aid effectiveness in third world countries. However, these organizations have limited accountability despite their use of public funds. There are few evaluations of services delivered, progress achieved or mistakes made.
“I wish international NGOs would involve the local people in the decision-making process,” Bidos said, “That’s what we hope to do; make lifelong investment in the people.”