It is hard to ignore the idea that some charities saw the disaster as a chance to raise money; why else did they all need to be there despite the duplication and slap their logos everywhere? The Lancet accused them of jostling for publicity while Médécins sans Frontièrs – which almost uniquely stopped fundraising after a few days, having made enough for its needs – told me charities loved to be in front of cameras to ensure cash flowed in to their accounts.
This would not be so bad if the money was well spent. Big chunks went on vital and immediate emergency relief to save lives. But substantial sums were blown on botched projects and needless staff costs. I visited one place were families were lured to live in wooden sheds on the promise of jobs and decent public services, only to find themselves marooned on rocky land 10 miles from town, unemployed and charged twice the going rate for water. The voices of local people were ignored by arrogant outsiders, undermining accountability and sustainable development.
As the Centre for Global Development reported this month, only a shameful 0.6% of the money spent by bilateral and multilateral donors was given to Haitian charities and businesses. Meanwhile an estimated 40% went on supporting all the foreigners dispensing aid, with their inflated housing allowances, vehicles and drivers.Well, that sums up Haiti, Ian.
Now, about all those other huge charities...
Oh, wait, wait! Do you have a solution to this?
When it comes to development aid, the concept of giving cash to people to spend as they see fit is attracting interest. Perhaps it is time to apply similar tactics to disaster relief once the most pressing emergency needs are out of the way. In Haiti, people could have been given more than double the average annual income. It is hard to believe they would not have spent the money better than the foreigners who have achieved depressingly little.What an awesome concept! Could we extend it to schemes here at home, maybe?