What happened to our money? Where did the money donated to Haiti go?

Carlos Miranda Levy • 21 November 2011
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Billions of dollars were pledged and a significant percentage of that has been spent in Haiti's disaster recovery related processes. But how much of that has made it to the people? With even the most conservative estimates, the money actually destined for Haiti should be enough to provide for at least 6 months or a year of income for the entire population in Haiti. A population that could be actively involved in the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince and restoration of the National economy instead of being systematically sidelined and excluded from the recovery process.

Billions of dollars are spent on foreign experts, consultants, advisors, mission trips, fancy hotels, restaurants, housing for foreign organization members and workers and brand new SUVs parading throughout the streets of Port-au-Prince with one driver and one passenger making the traffic even more chaotic than before.

Millions more are spent on security, body guards and an international military occupation force that is clueless about the reality and culture of the people they are supposed to serve, insisting on displaying their full battle gear under the Sun every day in convoys of heavily armored vehicles with machine guns regularly patrolling the city. All this money has brought even more extreme contrasts of inefficiency: chauffeurs driving individual foreign consultants across the city in empty vehicles while most of the population has to wait for hours for any means of transportation to get home at the same time that the international military occupation force moves in absurd large numbers of soldiers with bullet-proof vests, helmets and automatic weapons to run simple errands or to patrol a city whose population is mostly busy on making a living with the limited means and constrained economic conditions of the country.

For all the resources made available through the solidarity of people from all over the world, a very small percentage makes it to the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince or has a significant impact in the lives of the earthquake survivors. Tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands according to the International Organization for Migration) remain in survivors camps scattered around Port-au-Prince and thousands more still live in tents on the streets of many neighborhoods throughout the city.

While it is true that most camps have benefited from the delivery of professional tents, construction of latrines have been built and the installation of port-a-potties and light poles powered by solar panels, their conditions are way below optimal. In many cases the substitution of improvised tents made of sheets and any piece of cloth with barrack-style professional tents has taken away the little privacy surviving families had. But in any case, look at the picture accompanying this note and ask yourself: is this all our money could have bought, enabled, built or facilitated 20 months later?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these two pictures combined are worth a million.

What happened to our money?

I will let each person reach their own conclusions, hoping they will lead them to understand how inefficient and unfair the exclusion of local stakeholders and resources is in the recovery process as explained by our Relief 2.0 Disaster Recovery Model.

Reference Link(s):

U.S. Reduces Estimates of Homeless in Haiti Quake (New York Times, May 31 2011)

Kicking people out of IDP camps is not the answer to Haiti's housing problem (Aug 4 2011)

Seasonal Rains Bring Rise in Cholera Cases in Haiti (April 12 2011)

Haiti Reconstruction Aid Falls Short, New Figures Show (Jan 10 2011)

Was your donation for the Haiti earthquake spent well? (Dec 6 2010)

How much money has been given and spent for Haiti earthquake relief? Putting the numbers in perspective (Jan 10 2011)

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