NPR

Aid Groups Fret As Haiti Giving Slows Down

Bags of rice donated by the United States are thrown off a truck and handed out to women standing in a food distribution line at the main soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince. (NPR)

A new study calls last month's Haitian earthquake the most destructive natural disaster in modern times. The report by the Inter-American Development Bank puts recovery and rebuilding costs as high as $14 billion.

The United Nations has tripled its aid appeal to $1.4 billion — its largest disaster request ever. In the United States, private aid groups have already raised nearly $1 billion.

Just 10 days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, the peak of the public's outpouring of support came through the Hope for Haiti telethon. It aired on dozens of networks and cable channels nationwide, and raised more than $65 million. The first installment of funds went out to six groups, including the disaster relief powerhouse the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross received $6 million from Hope for Haiti to add to the more than $255 million it has raised on its own since the earthquake.

Questions About Fund Distribution

In past disasters — Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina — the group was heavily criticized for the way it raised and distributed funds. So, it's only natural that questions are now being asked about how the Red Cross is responding in Haiti.

Some bloggers have asked why the Red Cross only spent or committed $80 million; they're wondering what happened to the rest of it.

"We're doing a great job of using a lot of money in a very responsible way, reaching as many people as possible," says Nan Buzard, senior director for disaster response at the American Red Cross.

Of the $80 million spent so far, she says about 20 percent has gone toward temporary shelter — tarpaulins, tents and kitchen supplies provided to an estimated 400,000 people. Most of the rest is going to provide food and water to people living in Haiti's many tent cities.

Buzard says it's neither smart nor practical to expect groups like the Red Cross to use all of their donations immediately. But she acknowledges it's an understandable reaction to images showing ongoing suffering in Haiti.

"I think that really what it reflects is people's own frustration and desire for everything to be better," Buzard says. "And Haiti is not going to be better right away."

Switching Gears To Transitional Housing

The Red Cross and most other aid groups in Haiti are now turning from emergency disaster response to the next great need: transitional housing. These are temporary structures that will get families out of the rain while the Haitian government and aid groups determine how best to rebuild Port-au-Prince.

Partners in Health is another aid group that received money from the Hope for Haiti concert. The group has been active in Haiti since the 1980s. Since the quake, the group has raised some $44 million, but so far it has spent about $6 million.

Ted Constan, the group's chief program officer, says much of that money will be used to help rebuild Haiti's medical infrastructure, including its hospitals and medical and nursing schools. He believes donors should be looking to provide Haiti with help for the long term.

"The only way Haiti will ever recover from the situation they were in before the earthquake and now from this is by building up the kind of institutions that sustain civilization — health care, justice, agriculture, all of these," Constan says.

Reduced Donations

After a record January, aid groups say donations for Haiti have slowed to a trickle.

Rich Stearns, president of World Vision, a Christian charity in the U.S., says the group is approaching $100 million in contributions from around the world. That's far less than the $360 million it raised after the Asian tsunami. Stearns says this is a worrisome sign that could hamper plans to rebuild Haiti.

"We're concerned that there won't be enough private donations to do the job," Stearns says. "And the question we have is about what kind of rebuilding plan and funding the donor governments will come up with."

In Haiti, as in past disasters, the burden of rebuilding the country's infrastructure and public buildings will fall to the international community under the auspices of the U.N. But even John Holmes, who heads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, concedes that the U.N. effort has been inadequate during the first emergency relief phase.

In an e-mail last week, Holmes called on U.N. agencies to improve their coordination and get more resources on the ground to provide shelter and sanitation soon, before Haiti's rainy season starts.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Fourteen billion dollars, that's what some experts estimate it will cost to rebuild Haiti after last month's devastating earthquake. In the U.S., private aid groups have already raised nearly a billion dollars.

But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, much, much more money may be needed and where it will come from is not clear.

(Soundbite of song, "Send Me an Angel")

GREG ALLEN: Just 10 days after the earthquake, it was perhaps the peak of the public's outpouring of support for Haiti.

(Soundbite of song, "Send Me an Angel)

Ms. ALICIA KEYS (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) Sometimes I feel like I don't belong...

ALLEN: The Hope for Haiti Now concert aired on dozens of networks and cable channels nationwide and raised more than $65 million. The first installment of funds went out to six groups, including disaster relief powerhouse the American Red Cross.

Red Cross received $6 million from Hope for Haiti to add to the more than $255 million it's raised on its own since the earthquake.

In past disasters, 9/11 and Katrina, the group was heavily criticized for the way it raised and distributed funds. So it's only natural that questions are now being asked about how it's responding in Haiti. Why, for example, some bloggers have asked, has Red Cross only spent or committed $80 million? What's happened to the rest of it?

Ms.�NAN BUZARD (Senior Director for Disaster Response, American Red Cross): We're doing a great job of using a lot of money in a very responsible way, reaching as many people as possible.

ALLEN: Nan Buzard is the senior director for disaster response at the American Red Cross in Washington. Of the $80 million spent so far, she says about a fifth has gone toward temporary shelter: tarpaulins, tents and kitchen supplies provided to an estimated 400,000 people. Most of the rest is going to provide food and water to people living in Haiti's many tent cities.

Buzard says it's neither smart nor practical to expect groups like Red Cross to use all their donations immediately. But she acknowledges it's an understandable reaction to images showing ongoing suffering in Haiti.

Ms.�BUZARD: That is their right, when they entrust money to any aid agency, to ask those questions, but I think that really, what it reflects is people's own frustration and desire for everything to be better, and Haiti is not going to be better right away.

ALLEN: Red Cross and most other aid groups in Haiti are now turning from emergency disaster response to the next great need: transitional housing. These are temporary structures that will get families out of the rain while the Haitian government and aid groups determine how best to rebuild Port-au-Prince.

Another aid group that received money from Hope for Haiti, Partners in Health, has been active there since the 1980s. Since the quake, the group has raised some $44 million but so far has spent just about 6 million.

Chief program officer Ted Constan says much of that money will be used to help rebuild Haiti's medical infrastructure, including its hospitals, medical and nursing schools. He believes donors should be looking to provide Haiti with help for the long term.

Mr.�TED CONSTAN (Chief Program Officer, Partners in Health): Because the only way Haiti will ever recover from the situation they were in before the earthquake and now from this is by building up the kind of institutions that sustain civilization: health care, justice, agriculture, all of these.

ALLEN: After a record January, aid groups say donations for Haiti have now slowed to a trickle. Rich Stearns, president of World Vision in the U.S., says globally, the group is approaching $100 million in contributions. That's far less than the $360 million the group raised after the Asian tsunami, a worrisome sign, Stearns says, about plans for Haiti's rebuilding.

Mr.�RICH STEARNS (President, World Vision, U.S.): We're concerned that there won't be enough private donations to do the job, and the question we have is what kind of rebuilding plan and funding the donor governments will come up with because I think that's where it's going to have to mostly come from.

ALLEN: In Haiti, as in past disasters, the burden of rebuilding the country's infrastructure and public buildings will fall to the international community under the auspices of the U.N. But even the head of the U.N.'s humanitarian operations admits that in the first emergency relief phase, U.N. effort has been inadequate.

In an email last week, he called on U.N. agencies to improve their coordination and get more resources on the ground to provide shelter and sanitation soon, before the beginning of Haiti's rainy season.

Greg Allen, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular