What Happened to the Money Given to Haiti After the 2010 Earthquake?

This Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, and it’s unclear what happened to the billions of dollars donated towards relief efforts. At the Center for Global Development, Vijaya Ramachandran talks about why we need to know where that money went:

I can think of at least two reasons why we should still care about what happened in Haiti. The first reason is that despite the fact that a sum of money almost equivalent to the GDP of Haiti was disbursed to non-governmental organizations, for-profit contractors and other agencies, most Haitians live without a reliable supply of electricity, clean water, or paved roads. Several thousand Haitians still live in (now tattered) tents provided as part of the relief effort. The second reason is that understanding what happened in Haiti is critical if we want to do a better job with relief and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of future natural disasters. Despite commitments made by rich country governments and non-governmental organizations towards greater aid transparency, and the availability of easy-to-use tools such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service, it is impossible to trace how the money was spent, how many Haitians were served, and what kinds of projects succeeded or failed.

We give in times of need, but it’s not always clear to us how much our giving helps. I experienced this first-hand during Hurricane Sandy, first giving money to the Red Cross and then volunteering with them and subsequently becoming disenchanted with the experience (after a weekend putting together care packages and delivering them to people who didn’t need them, I quickly figured out I could help out a lot more by buying a shovel and helping homeowners dig out their homes). Felix Salmon dove into some of the other problems with the organization, and I hope that the Red Cross, which undoubtedly has done good work, to do a better job in the future. [Thanks to Jon for the pointer.]

Photo: RIBI Image Library

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