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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch 'Focusing on Long-term Development' in Times of Cholera and Crisis

'Focusing on Long-term Development' in Times of Cholera and Crisis

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Tuesday, 02 November 2010 10:31
Independent journalist Ansel Herz, who has been reporting from the ground in Haiti since the earthquake, writes in the New York Daily News today on the media's treatment of the cholera outbreak as well as the lack of spending by aid organizations. Herz begins his op-ed with a quote from Peter James Hudson of Vanderbilt University:
"Breaking: North American news outlets "excited" by Haiti cholera outbreak. They say for them, "without a crisis, Haiti doesn't exist."
Herz continues:
Now, CNN crews are back in Haiti, covering a deadly cholera epidemic that has killed at least 330 people and infected nearly 5,000, according to officials. The bacteria incubate in bodies before causing symptoms or passing into the environment. What most media reports ignore is that the epidemic has been years in the making.

The George W. Bush administration blocked millions of dollars in loans from the Inter-American Development Bank for public water infrastructure in Haiti's central region. In the previous decade, President Bill Clinton pressured the Haitian government into slashing tariffs on imported American rice, devastating the rice farming economy of the area.

Families are so poor they have no choice but to drink, bathe and cook with water from the muddy Artibonite River, where the cholera outbreak began. Yet UN officials said this epidemic was unexpected, attempting to excuse their slow response and failure to quarantine the zone where cholera broke out - even as they took credit in preceding months for preventing a postearthquake outbreak of infectious disease.
Herz also calls out the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:
For example, the Clinton-Bush Haiti fund, inaugurated by President Obama  with both former Presidents at his side, is still running Web advertisements that say "100% of donations go directly to relief efforts." That's a cruel lie, considering the quake victims living in flood zones under withered plastic tarps. Only 8% of its $50 million had been spent by this summer, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
In an update to his article posted to Herz's blog, he notes that:
Within hours of my op-ed being published in the New York Daily News today, the $50 million Clinton Bush Haiti Fund posted an update on its Facebook page called “Cholera Concern,” which includes this sentence: “While other organizations in Haiti are using their resources to deliver immediate humanitarian aid, we are using our resources to focus on long-term development so that these crises are prevented.”

Look at the screen shot of an Oct. 25 article about Haiti on Fox News. The advertisement for the fund is doubly deceitful: “100% of donations go directly to relief efforts,” it says. That is a lie, period. Relief is what earthquake victims desperately need right now to protect them from an oncoming hurricane. It’s what they’ve needed for the past ten months to make tent camps more livable.

Relief is not the same as long-term development, especially the fund’s chosen brand focusing on Haiti’s business class. I thought planning and executing long-term development was the Haitian government’s job. There are no Haitians on the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund’s board of directors.
The reality is that, while especially egregious, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is not alone in allocating American's emergency relief donations for longer term projects. As we have pointed out numerous times before, 6 months after the earthquake, U.S. relief groups had raised well over 1 billion dollars, but spent just a small fraction of that. Although even more months have passed, with displaced quake survivors - many of whom still must live under leaky tarps - being forced to endure heavy rains, flooding, and now an outbreak of cholera, and the threat of a hurricane later this week, it seems that NGOs have yet to scale up their spending. The American Red Cross, who raised $468 million at the 6 month mark and had spent $148.5 million, has actually slowed its spending. Despite having received more in donations that any other NGO, the American Red Cross spent just $35 million in the two-and-a-half months from mid-July to end of September just as the Hurricane Season was picking up.  World Vision, whose donate to Haiti webpage says, "Your gift will help us meet the immediate, urgent needs of earthquake survivors, and also enable World Vision to help the people of Haiti rebuild and recover in the weeks and months to come," had spent less than 30% of the near $200 million in donations at the six month mark.

The situation is neatly summed up in a story from Sanjay Gupta last week. After finding a warehouse full of cholera supplies in Port-au-Prince, he was told that, "If we send everything we have here today, tomorrow we cannot answer for the 800,000 cases." This is a common refrain since the earthquake, money must be saved because their could be a future emergency, while over a million people live through an emergency each and every day. As Gupta wrote, "I have seen it happen over and over again in Haiti since the earthquake. It is a bitter irony. People die for lack of lifesaving supplies, even though the supplies were right there in front of them."

Tags: aid distribution | media coverage | ngos | red cross | world vision

 

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