• February 27, 2015

American Donors Gave $1.4-Billion to Haiti Aid

Haiti anniversary

CHF International

A cholera epidemic is one of the major obstacles facing charities that are working to help Haiti recover from its devastating earthquake a year ago.

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CHF International

A cholera epidemic is one of the major obstacles facing charities that are working to help Haiti recover from its devastating earthquake a year ago.

In the year after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Americans gave more than $1.4-billion to aid survivors and help the impoverished country rebuild, according to a Chronicle survey of 60 major relief organizations. Roughly 38 percent of that sum has been spent to provide recovery and rebuilding aid.

The outpouring, while generous, fell short of the $1.6-billion Americans contributed in the year after the South Asian tsunamis and the staggering $3.3-billion they donated in the 12 months following Hurricane Katrina.

Distribution of Funds

The share of Haiti donations that has been spent is roughly the same as the amount spent one year after the tsunamis. A year after Hurricane Katrina, charities had spent about 80 percent of donations.

But the percentage of funds spent in Haiti varies widely among organizations.

While a few charities have distributed all the money they raised, others have big sums still on hand. For example, by the end of November, the American Red Cross, in Washington, had committed $188-million of its $479-million in private donations. It expects to have committed $245-million by the one-year anniversary of the earthquake this month.

Concern About Spending

The unspent funds have fueled criticism that charities are moving too slowly in the rebuilding effort.

“There is a huge amount of frustration and a lot of talk about what is the impact of the hundreds of millions that have been raised,” says Wendy Flick, manager of the Haiti emergency-response program at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, in Cambridge, Mass, which has spent about a quarter of the $1.9-million it received.

Experts on disaster recovery, however, say the rate of spending has been appropriate. If anything, relief workers may be tempted to spend too fast because of public pressure, they say.

There are some environments in which you just can’t spend a lot of money quickly. And Haiti is one of them,” says Peter Walker, director of Tufts University’s Feinstein International Center, in Medford, Mass. “If you want to fuel corruption, then sure, go ahead and pump a huge amount of money in.”


1. richardwalden - January 08, 2011 at 05:39 pm

I'm not sure why the Chronicle left Operation USA off its list of Haiti quake relief NGOs, but we raised $7.9M in cash and supplies and spent/delivered $6.8M as of December 31, 2010. see www.opusa.org for more. We are an Interaction member agency and see that Interaction's total membership received $1.2B and spent just under half that sum. Usually I decry that percentage, but having been intensively involved in our Haiti work, there are a number of unique factors about Haiti which make for VERY careful expenditure of these restricted funds (meaning funds which must be spent ONLY on Haiti and not subject to NGO accounting games "de"-restricting them after 3 years).

Pledges by Government and multi-lateral agencies of up to $9.9B made at March 31, 2010's Donors' Conference on Haiti have barely exceeded 10% in funds delivered; the Haiti "government", if you can call it that, is still adrift and leaderless after a very flawed election and needs lots of tough love to get its act together (which we all need to see happen); there's a huge cholera epidemic which is still spreading; violence both before and after the election has kept people off the streets and disrupted supply lines, holding up construction projects or even rubble removal; endemic corruption is widespread; the ports in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic (for whom Haiti's plight is a financial bonanza) are the opposite of efficient and cleanly run; and, the media coverage is turning from very helpful and engaged to cynical about all the institutions involved, and maybe that's well-deserved after silly exhibitions like Fox News' shilling for Sarah Palin's shoebox-full-of-toys-and-things delivery with Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse over the holidays.

Most of us in the relief community are committed to truly being effective in Haiti because its people deserve better than what man and nature have provided.

Richard Walden
President and CEO
Operation USA

2. caro2675 - January 10, 2011 at 09:56 am

Thank you for your comments and insights on rebuilding Haiti.

Operation USA was included among the 60 charities we surveyed about their recovery work in Haiti. We will have a complete list of those charities' fund-raising results, and how they're spending the money they raised, early this week.

Please also see this story for more information: http://philanthropy.com/article/Charities-Face-Struggles-to/125847.

Caroline Preston
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

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