Thursday, September 16, 2010

Holding Private Charities Accountable in Haiti

Haiti became a fund-raising boon for many large private charities such as the Red Cross, CARE, Catholic Relief Services and the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010.

Last May, CBS news released a figure for donations, received on behalf of Haiti earthquake victims by private charities, at $4 billion dollars and rising. That was last May and the $4 billion dollar figure did not include money raised by hundreds of smaller organizations and churches for existing projects, or to create new projects, under the umbrella of earthquake relief in Haiti.

Ben Smilowitz of the Disaster Accountability Project states that one of the major problems with accountability for donations is that the largest charities are self-monitoring and no real independent oversight exists.  Emilie Parry,  a consultant with Refugees International, points to a disconnect between the large sums of money raised for earthquake relief in Haiti and tangible improvements on the ground for the survivors.

In this program, Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio with Kevin Pina discusses the more than $4 billion dollars raised by private charities for disaster relief in Haiti. Are they accountable for the money they raise to help victims of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti? Whose keeping track and how? Are there tangible signs that anywhere near $4 billion has actually been spent by private charities in Haiti?

ADDENDUM: The figure of $4 billion dollars raised by private charities for earthquake relief in Haiti was confirmed by Sharyl Attkisson the Investigative Correspondent with the CBS Evening News. Last May Attkisson did a special report on aid to Haiti. In an email response to HIP Attkisson wrote:

I looked at the report you referenced, and it totaled not just private charity donations, but ALL donations to Haiti: both government and private. The sentence you’re referring to is: “most of the $14.9 billion dollars that’s been donated will be used on long term projects to rebuild Haiti.”
As the graphic in the story indicated, here’s how the total breaks down:

Government: $10.9 billion government  
Charity: $4 billion charity
Total: $14.9 billion

So $4 billion of the total $14.9 was charitable non-government donations. The rest are donations from official governments including the US.

In contrast to the story you saw, which focused largely on the charitable donations, the first part of the report we did on Haiti focused on the government part of the total. In it, we discussed the “$4 billion dollars raised by non-government groups and charities,” (UN ReliefWeb) which is the number you are probably looking for. We also detailed: “The US government has given more than a billion dollars ($1.019 billion, USAID April 9) and has pledged another billion plus ($1.15 billion). Other countries and world bodies have pledged $8.75 billion over two years.” With the $4 billion raised by non-govt groups and charities, “That's $14.9 billion dollars and counting.”)

Sharyl Attkisson
Investigative Correspondent
"Follow the Money"
CBS Evening News

This radio segment discussing accountability of private charitable organizations in Haiti on Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio with Kevin Pina originally aired September 15, 2010.

GUESTS: Emilie Parry, a consultant with Refugees International who just returned from Haiti after taking an assessment of disaster relief in Haiti - Haiti: Emergency Paralysis

Ben Smilowitz, coordinator of the Disaster Accountability Project -
Report On Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake