Haitian Government Must Not be Bypassed in Relief and Reconstruction Efforts

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 13:46
The Global Health blog at Change.org yesterday reported on how international NGOs have largely bypassed the Haitian health ministry in their relief efforts:
In advance of a March 31 donors' conference on Haiti, health officials are scrambling to assemble a better picture of the country's needs -- but the bulk of relief groups aren't exactly cooperating. To assist with medium- and long-term planning, Haiti's Ministry of Health has required all new organizations arriving in Haiti to provide information about how many people would be on the ground, what their skill sets were and for how long they'll stay. Yet even that rudimentary information has been hard to come by.
This situation is not unique to the health sector. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and Haitian President Rene Preval have both made similar statements. Reuters reported that Bellerive said:
"We don't know who has given money to NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) and how much money have they given. ... At the moment, we can't do any coordination or have any coherent policies for giving to the population."
Preval, in an interview with the Miami Herald noted that while millions have been pledged, very little has gone to the Haitian Government. An AP analysis of aid in the aftermath of the quake found that only one cent of every aid dollar went to the Haitian Government.

Paul Collier, who drafted a development plan for Haiti for the UN last year, made the same point in an Op-Ed in The Independent as well:
As the NGOs further scale-up, the already limited capacity of the state has been decimated. Essential as the NGOs have been, this imbalance threatens to leave the state marginalised in the core task of basic service provision.
It is vital the Haitian Government have an active role in the relief efforts, as well as the long-term rebuilding of the country. Haiti has more NGOs per capita than any country in the world, even before the quake. Past structural adjustment programs that were supported by the IMF and World Bank have also had a detrimental effect on the role of the state in Haiti. As a percent of GDP, government revenue in Haiti (excluding grants)  is lower than most African countries. In order to build a legitimate and functioning government, which is necessary for development, it is important that relief and reconstruction efforts are not seen solely as something being done by the international community, but by the Haitian government as well.

For the upcoming donor conference at the end of March, the Haitian Government, in coordination with the international community prepared a preliminary Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) that was published this week. AFP reports that:
"The total amount of money needed stands at 11.5 billion dollars and breaks down like this: 50 percent for the social sector, 17 percent for infrastructure including housing, and 15 percent for the environment and disaster risk management," the document said.
However, L’Agence Haitienne de Presse (AHP)1 reported yesterday that:
Reliable sources in Washington believe that Haiti's reconstruction needs will cost as much as $17 billion over the next 10 years, or $1.7 billion per year. These sources feel that most of the funds could be administered by a single consortium.   Of that amount, $170 million, or 1%, would be earmarked for the Haitian government, at an annual rate of $17 million for budget support.
According to the IMF, total government revenue is projected to be around 11 percent of GDP in 2009 but only 6.4% of GDP in 2010. The $17 million dollars earmarked for the Haitian Government is less than one percent of 2009 GDP. Bellerive recently said that the Haitian Government was unable to pay many public employees because of the earthquake’s effect on government finances, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal continues:
He made a plea for Haiti's international donors, who for the most part donate money through NGOs to help the government directly finance itself. "We need budget support," he said. "We can only address about 20% of the government's needs now."
A group of  human rights and aid organizations, with long histories of working Haiti, recently made a series of recommendations for the upcoming donor conference. Among their recommendations is that:
Donor states should use a rights-based approach, targeting aid to build the capacity of the Haitian government to ensure the rights of its people.
The groups note that:
This requires donors to work directly with the Government of Haiti to identify needs and to develop, implement, and monitor programs to provide basic public services, including education and public health, water, and sanitation services.


1. AHP article translated by Mike Levy

Tags: coordination | haitian government | ngos