Haiti: UN office criticizes aid distribution

The distribution of international aid after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in southern Haiti has been slow and in some ways counterproductive, according to a United Nations (UN) report released in June of this year. “Has Aid Changed? Channeling assistance to Haiti before and after the earthquake” was prepared by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti; the office was set up in May 2009 “to assist the Haitian government and people in carrying out their priorities with the help of the international community,” according to a UN press release.

Following the earthquake international donors pledged a total of $4.58 billion in aid for 2010 and 2011. Only $1.74 billion has been disbursed so far, leaving $2.84 billion, about 60%, still not paid out, the report says. “And yet disbursing funds is only part of the aid picture,” the report adds. About 99% of the short-term relief aid after the earthquake was given to “bilateral and multilateral humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross movement and international non-state service providers, including NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and private contractors”; only 1% went to the Haitian government. Some 55% of the long-term recovery aid has gone to “multilateral agencies, international non-state service providers, and non-specified recipients,” with just 12% going directly to the Haitian government.

Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti Paul Farmer, a US doctor who founded Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, a respected community-based health service in Haiti, writes in a forward to the report that “the already challenging task of moving from relief to recovery—which requires government leadership, above all—becomes almost impossible” when “over 99% of relief funding [is] circumventing Haitian public institutions.” “We have heard from the Haitian people time and again that creating jobs and supporting the government to ensure access to basic services are essential to restoring dignity,” he continues. “To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.” (UN press release, June 23; AlterPresse, Haiti, June 25)

The Office of the Special Envoy is headed by former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), who is also co-president of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), a group set up by donor nations in March 2010 to disburse and monitor international aid. A number of Haitians, including Haitian members of the CIRH, have criticized the commission for leaving Haitians out of its decision-making process.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 26.

See our last post on Haiti.