Did Major Aid Organizations Dupe Donors, Fail Haiti?

haiti camp

Tarp camps for Haitians displaced by the earthquake lack sanitation facilities and many do not have clean water.

Cholera Outbreak in Haiti Preventable

The Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) released an online petition Friday, targeting leaders of major disaster relief and aid organizations for failing to do more to prevent the cholera outbreak in Haiti ten months after a devastating earthquake killed up to 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless. Major relief organizations raised billions of dollars, while telling the public that their relief efforts included water and sanitation work. With half of the funds raised still in the bank, DAP says that aid organizations failed to use the funds with the same urgency conveyed to donors, and that a cholera epidemic was avoidable.

Executive Director Ben Smilowitz says the failure of aid organizations to respond quickly to the epidemic is different from donor nations promising aid that never materialized.

“Donors have been duped. They generously donated in response to urgent appeals to save lives and help the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake. Now, after billions in cash was raised, earthquake survivors are dying of cholera because conditions are so poor and the donated money is sitting in the bank. This is not what donors had in mind and it underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in relief and aid situations,” Smilowitz said yesterday in a phone interview.

The petition targets the leadership of major aid organizations by name, accusing them of “not doing their jobs” and allowing the epidemic to become a major threat. Quoting the Chronicle of Philanthropy, DAP named major charities involved in sanitation and water projects.

Each of these organizations stated that they worked on Water and Sanitation after the Haiti earthquake. As of July 2010 – six months after the Haiti earthquake, American Red Cross raised $464 million and spent $117 million; Catholic Relief Services raised $140.8 million and spent $30.6 million; Oxfam America raised $29 million and spent $11 million; Salvation Army raised $20.5 million and spent $6.8 million; Food for the Poor raised $20.5 million and spent $10.7 million; Mercy Corps raised $14.9 million and spent almost $2.9 million; International Medical Corps raised $13 million and spent $4.5 million. World Vision raised $44 million ($192,000,000 worldwide) and spent $56 million worldwide and CARE raised $18.2 million and spent $9.6 million worldwide. It is unclear how much World Vision and CARE spent in Haiti, since they did not provide that information.

When asked about the skewed World Vision numbers, Smilowitz said that “these groups try to make their numbers look as impressive as possible. The bottom line is that they did not clearly answer the question about how much money World Vision raised and spent in Haiti.”

“The international community and Haitian government failed to sufficiently invest in clean water and sanitation after the quake. Now, living conditions are so deplorable and infrastructure so poor, the situation is ripe for the cholera epidemic. The cholera death toll is expected to soar into the thousands,” the DAP petition says.

The petition also quotes World Health Organization (WHO) documents which say cholera outbreaks are “closely linked to inadequate environmental management” and that “typical at-risk areas include peri-urban slums, where basic infrastructure is not available, as well as camps for internally displaced people or refugees, where minimum requirements of clean water and sanitation are not met.”

Pan American Health Organization epidemiologists have said the disease has not peaked and will likely worsen and spread. 270,000 may be affected in the coming years.

On November 17, the Ministère de la Sante Publique et de la Population (MSPP) reported that the cumulative number of hospital admissions and deaths due to cholera as of November 15 as 18,382 and 1110, respectively.

Six months after the Haiti earthquake, Disaster Accountability Project released a report detailing a “shocking lack of transparency” in Haiti relief operations.

georgianne nienaberThe Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving disaster management systems through policy research and advocacy, promoting transparency and engaging citizens to become more involved in preparedness and relief, and helping to ensure that people know what is happening on the ground during a disaster.

DAP was founded in 2007 in reaction to the response to Hurricane Katrina.

A toll-free hotline (866-9-TIP-DAP) is available as a public service for disaster survivors, workers and volunteers to report critical gaps in disaster prevention, response, relief, and recovery services or planning.

Georgianne Nienaber

Republished with author’s permission from Huffington Post.


  1. says

    You seem quick to assume the worst about World Vision when they claimed to have spent more than they raised. Saying that they were likely “trying to make their numbers look as impressive as possible” and that they “did not clearly answer the question” is accusatory.

    I thought their answer was perfectly clear — they raised x for Haiti (“Donate for Haitian Relief!”) and then pulled from other funds to cover the needs.

    My husband and I often spent more out-of-pocket for the kids we ministered to in youth ministry, because the budget we were given didn’t cover the needs. It’s not fuzzy math. It’s called generosity.

    • Georgianne Nienaber says

      The quote you cite is from The Disaster Accountability Project. I would also refer you to a Haitian Grassroots organization (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9-2mv82ELg) which agrees with that assessment, as well as suggesting that you read “Travesty in Haiti” by Dr. Timothy Schwartz.

      I am only the messenger, and since I have been reporting on NGO travesties. Their PR firms are on alert. I take that as evidence that we are getting the message across.

      As a donor, I am sure you are unhappy with the message, but you have the power to do something about it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      My job is to get the message across from the Haitian people when they cannot do so themselves.

      Ask the question..16,000 NGOs registered in Haiti and things are worse now than they were before the quake. 10,000 were registered pre-quake and there is still no infrastructure, only bandaids of water purification tablets, free food distribution which has ruined Haitian agriculture, while we prop up our own markets, donated goods sold on the black market, NGOs fighting over control of government “approved” IDP camps,. Take Camp Corail (an approved camp), created by forced relocation in April, while the adjacent camp, Canaan, doesn’t get the time of day from from NGOs in collusion with Preval. Canaan has been there since the quake.

      I am not “quick” to assume anything. I report what I see.

  2. says

    Official Food For The Poor response to Georgianne Nienaber story:

    The $20.5 million Food For The Poor raised for Haiti emergency earthquake relief has been spent entirely on those efforts by the end of September. The funds were used for purchasing food and other critical items that we could not get donated, as well as for shipping containers of relief to the country. Some of the relief money went toward building emergency sanitation facilities, as well as providing clean water sources.

    As of mid-November, we have sent 1,287 containers valued at $175 million. These containers have included food, water, water treatment systems, medicines, building supplies, tools, boots, and hygiene kits.

    “There is a great deal of opinion and misinformation about how aid money is being spent – or not spent – in Haiti. While we cannot speak for other organizations, we can say with full transparency that if donors have entrusted Food For The Poor with money to be used in Haiti, it has gone to that country, and it has gone without delay,” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor. “It is simply wrong to use outdated figures and lump all aid organizations into one pile without doing the necessary research and reporting.”

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