“You have several hundred NGOs operating in Haiti, and basically doing what they want, with no regard to the wishes of the Government of Haiti.”
These are the words of Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit expressed during a recent meeting of Caribbean leaders in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “We have called on the UN Secretary General to bring some level of order to the situation, because while we speak about maintaining democracy in Haiti, we cannot at the same time be empowering NGOs to undermine the democratic institutions that are in Haiti,” he added. Rene Preval, the president of Haiti, expressed similar concerns during his interview with Ray Suarez of PBS Newshour. Preval reminded donors that nearly all relief funds were in the hands of NGOs and governments. He also decried the criticism of incompetence, indifference, and corruption leveled as his administration’s response to the crisis as unfair.
Most importantly, though, his remarks revealed the lack control his administration has over the flood of runaway NGOs now operating in Haiti.
Think tanks have been equally critical of many of the aid organizations in Haiti. The Council on Foreign Relations, for instance, in its June 22nd report Haiti at a Crossroad did not hesitate to direct some harsh criticism at foreign charities for the clear lack of coordinating efforts with the government of Haiti. Chaired by Senator John Kerry, the report aimed to present a comprehensive long-term strategy on the way forward with the reconstruction.
Meanwhile, the agony, confusion, and uncertainty of the afflicted can still be heard over the insurmountable piles of debris, which remain the burial ground for thousands of dead bodies. In the sixth months since the earthquake, some 28,000 people have been relocated to new homes, leaving an unprecedented 1.5 million people still displaced in the urban setting of the capital. Moreover, a Euronews report on the International AIDS conference in Vienna claimed that 120,000 of the refugees living in tents are HIV positive and are living without necessary medication or basic means of survival.
In addition, a new report released by the NGO watchdog, Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) offered extensive details of its 5 months investigation into the affairs of NGO Republic. Sadly, the results echoed the same criticism about the lack of transparency and coördination they have demonstrated during the last six months. The investigation sought to decide whether NGOs that solicited funds for Haiti were actually producing transparent results and offered publicly accessible accounts of their activities.
Much to his dismay, Ben Smilowitz, the Executive Director of the DAP, accounted for 197 such organizations that collected around $1.3 billion from donors to help Haiti; however, only six of them were able to produce factual statements detailing their activities. On the other hand, 128 organizations could not produce any documentation on how the collected money was spent. As a result, Ben accused the NGOs of violating the public trust while the refugee camps hang vulnerably in the path of the rainy and hurricane seasons.
Summing up his frustration, Skerrit inferred, “We believe that the situation is untenable, and we should put an immediate stop to it. We must call on the international institutions and government to desist from putting the resources into NGOs.”