New Internationalist

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink!

‘It’s been raining for days and days and days now with no significant let-up. The rain drops feel like tears. The sobbing of 300,000 Haitians gone in 33 seconds on 12 January 2010... I can’t stand the rain. I can’t stand the rain. It’s raining, raining inches of water, two million Haitians in the water under tents, tarps and sheets. I can’t stand the rain. I can’t stand the rain,’ writes Haitian blogger Ezili Danto.

We are now entering the 10th month since the earthquake that struck on 12 January this year. Ten months of humanitarian hype. Billions of dollars have been collected but, like the rain, there is money everywhere but nothing to eat.

To date, not a cent of the $1.15 billion promised by the US government for reconstruction has arrived. Millions collected in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake are also yet to either arrive or get distributed to those in need. In fact, according to various estimates, there are gaping holes between monies collected by some of the larger NGOs and the distribution of aid on the ground.

In April, the Haitian blogger posted a report on the American Red Cross (ARC) in Haiti, asking first where exactly they were and secondly, where the money was that had been collected in donations. In their interim report made in March, the ARC had claimed to have spent $106 million.

But the question remained: where was the evidence of this expenditure on the streets of Port-au-Prince? A reporter visited the streets outside the ARC head office and the camp opposite. He found nothing in evidence of the $8 million supposedly spent on shelter. Nor could he find the $55 million spent on food and water. In short, there was no evidence of the $106 million.

The ARC is just one of the so-called ‘humanitarian organizations’ operating in Haiti. Although there is not sufficient data to examine the expenditure of other organizations such as Oxfam and Christian Aid, to name just two, reports from grassroots activists maintain that some 1.2 million people are yet to benefit in any way from humanitarian aid.

Many camps are being run by thugs who force displaced residents to pay for the right to be in the camp, supposedly as some form of security. The camps are unsafe, particularly for women and young girls, who continue to be raped in horrendous numbers. The shelter remains completely inadequate and even those that might have been decent in the early months have now deteriorated to the point they can no longer be called shelters.

The problem is that there is a discrepancy between the reports of NGOs and the ones by grassroots activists. There are so many NGOs that it is difficult to account for money that has been spent.

A report from Ansel Herz broadcast on Flashpoints Radio stated that one camp in CarrFour, run by North Americans, was actually charging residents a ‘camp tax’ to stay there. This report was particularly disturbing as it painted a picture of a group of people from the US tyrannizing the lives of some 10,000 Haitians, insisting that they conduct their lives according to the organizers of the camp.

Finally, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has just released a report on the NGO-ization of Haiti and their impact on Port-au-Prince’s Internally Displaced Persons.

I will post on the report in the coming weeks.

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