Killed by Bureaucracy: A Story of Neglect in a USAID/OFDA Supported Camp

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:55

Earlier we reported on an Inspector General report that is extremely critical of USAID/OFDA and their grantees’ efforts in providing housing to displaced Haitians. The audit, however, also raised a separate issue, based on the fact that “USAID/OFDA’s mandate is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and reduce the economic impact of the recent earthquake in Haiti.”

The audit reported that:

As part of the audit, the audit team visited a camp where USAID/OFDA was funding the construction of 800 shelters. There we met a resident who was dying of breast cancer. The woman’s entire right breast was an open wound, and she was suffering great pain. Concerned for the welfare of this person, the audit team alerted grantee officials that the woman needed immediate medical help. The audit team members asked whether the grantee could use their knowledge of local community resources to seek help. However, the auditors were told that many people were sick in Haiti and that helping one person would lead to others asking for help.

The audit team informed USAID/OFDA of the situation, but was told by a USAID/OFDA official in Haiti that USAID could not do anything and that the issue should be taken up with the grantee.

Eventually “officials agreed to look into the matter further and review access to medical care in the camp.” The woman was hospitalized on January 3 for one night, however on January 6, 2011 the woman died. The audit concludes:

USAID/OFDA funded the construction of the shelters built in a camp to provide protection for a vulnerable portion of Haiti’s earthquake affected population. The grantee was delivering what was required under the terms of its grant—shelters—but the grantee had not anticipated that sheltering a population of vulnerable people would necessitate planning for medical care. There was neither a camp manager nor medical assistance available in the camp, and officials were not prepared to refer ill individuals to one of the numerous medical assistance organizations operating in the area. As a result, shelter beneficiaries were not receiving appropriate medical care. To minimize similar occurrences in other areas where USAID/OFDA is working, we are making the following recommendation:

Recommendation 7. We recommend that USAID/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, in conjunction with its awardees, develop and implement procedures to identify available humanitarian resources so that vulnerable beneficiaries can be referred on a timely basis.

The USAID/OFDA management did not respond to this recommendation.

Tags: ngos | shelter | usaid