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article imageWhere have all the Haitian donations gone?

By Stephanie Dearing     Feb 16, 2010 in World
The devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000, and displaced at least 1 million people in Haiti prompted an outpouring of generosity from people and businesses around the world.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Billions of dollars were raised for Haiti after the earthquake. In fact, the fund raising hasn't stopped. But one month after the disaster, the west is still receiving reports that Haitians lack shelter, not everyone is getting food or water, and there is a new threat approaching -- the weather. The wet season is about to start. Which has prompted the question: what is going on with the billions of dollars raised for Haiti?
Not to be mistaken, aid is getting through to people. In fact, because the situation has improved so much, the United States Military is was cutting back on its presence in Haiti. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports 900,000 people are getting fresh water every day, and 2.6 million people received two weeks worth of rice last week. Nearly 20 food distribution centers have been established in Port-au-Prince.
While relief efforts in Haiti got off to a bad start, caused by the extent of the damage and a lack of coordination within organizations as well as between organizations, we are learning that there continues to be distribution problems. The Miami Herald ran a story over the weekend saying many of the supplies meant to help Haitians, such as tarps or sleeping pads, are sitting in warehouses. Founder of CAN-DO, Eric Klein told the Miami Herald ''There's no excuse for medical supplies sitting in a warehouse five minutes from a hospital where they are doing amputations and giving people ibuprofen for the pain.''
The International Organization for Migration said only approximately 22,000 tents have been distributed in Haiti so far, but 200,000 more tents are needed.
Haiti has been rocked by as many as 54 aftershocks thus far, and seismologists expect there will be more to come in the near future. The destruction to the buildings has been extensive, hampering relief efforts.
The American Red Cross was one of the first organizations to start relief efforts in Haiti. The organization released an accounting of its work and the funds available to it last week. The Red Cross raised $255 million, and has only allocated $80 million as of February 9th. The Red Cross did not account for the $175 million it hasn't allocated to Haitian relief efforts, although it said "... An average of 91 cents of every dollar received is invested directly into humanitarian services and programs." The American Red Cross is still asking for donations for Haitian relief. The organization has received criticism for its initial bumbling in Haiti in January, as well as not accounting for the $175 million raised for Haiti.
The American Red Cross is the only organization to have issued a statement about where its Haiti donations are going, highlighting the fact there is very little information being made available as to where funds are going. For example, Direct Relief International issued a press release in January to say all donations meant for Haiti would go to Haiti. Since that release, Direct Relief International has not provided the public with up-to-date numbers as to how much money it raised. In a new release, the organization said it will commit to spend $1.2 million to "... support the establishment of prosthetics and orthotics services and the provision of needed assistive devices and rehabilitation." The organization also said that the $1.2 million represented "about" one-third of the funds it had raised for Haiti.
The primary concerns now are for the upcoming rainy season, which has already gotten underway, followed by the hurricane season. The United Nations has said many of the tent cities that have sprung up are situated in risky areas, and there could be further weather-related disasters.
John Holmes from International Council of Voluntary Agencies said in an email posted on Reliefweb "... The magnitude and complexity of the disaster are such that all major organisations need to deploy their most experienced disaster response staff and to make sure they are procuring, delivering and distributing what is needed as quickly as possible. This is a major test for all of us and we cannot afford to fail. So I ask you all to take a fresh hard look at what you are able to do in the key areas, and pursue a much more aggressive approach to meeting the needs." In his email, Homes advised relief organizations in Haiti to work faster to provide shelter and sanitation for Haitians, and also asked for a stronger coordination of aid.
The assistance being provided to Haiti is one of the largest rescue operations the world has seen, and coordination of resources, personnel and agencies has been difficult.
More about Haiti, Earthquake, Donations, Red cross, Humanitarian aid
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