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Stop donating to Haiti?

Photo by LOGAN ABASSI/AFP/Getty Images)

I haven’t asked for permission yet, so I’m posting the below comments anonymously.

It’s by someone who’s worked in disaster relief for a number of years.

Dear Friends,

We have all seen the terrible news that is happening in Haiti
especially in the capital of Port au Prince. What I want to ask each
of you to do is to give with your head and not just your heart. There
is an obvious urgency for immediate relief efforts to rescue and save
lives. But the reality is that for these purposes giving at this time
is already too late. Aid agencies and other NGOs will determine a
budget looking at what they have on hand and what they can hope to
recover with immediate donations and spend accordingly. Money
collected now for emergency relief will go to replace what is spent.
Any extra will then have to be spent on ad hoc ‘emergency’ projects to
be created in the months to come. The extraordinary outpouring of
donations with each major catastrophe is an indication of Canadian
sympathy but not wisdom. As with other major catastrophes aid agencies
will collect more moneys then they can spend. This fact along with
not-for-profit rules which require donations collected be spent only
for the purpose for which they were collected (a good rule that
protects donors), means agencies will have to come up with ways to
dump cash at the end of the fiscal year. This kind of spending only
encourages wastefulness at best and often leads to creating a culture
of corrupt behaviour.

For aid agencies each disaster is a windfall and they must ‘make hay
while the sun shines’. The administrative portions they keep for
themselves are a strong motivator. They are not at fault for this
rather it is the giving pattern of their supporters who only give when
they see death, suffering and destruction on their TV screens. An
earthquake of this magnitude is still beyond our human technology for
prevention or even early warning. However, the risk reduction and
amelioration that is part of disaster preparedness should have
accounted for an event of this scale. And those preparations should
have been attended to from year to year, requiring steady and
targeting giving from donors and governments and the attention of the
NGO community.

I visited Haiti in 2001 inspecting water and sanitation, community
development projects of and preaching at a church of the Evangelical
Baptist Churches of Haiti (EEBH). Port au Prince sits at the edge of
the water and spreads up high mountains. The steep roads where they
exist become torrential rivers with every rainfall sweeping anything
not secured down into the harbour and knocking over the sheds and
makeshift shelters of the poorest that live on the edge of the sea.
Other construction is in concrete but often with limited use of
expensive rebar; but even rebar would not have saved many of the
buildings in this particular earthquake. The lack of adequate
infrastructure will seriously hamper relief efforts. The lack of
adequate in country stock piles of emergency supplies will mean that
aid will come too late for many. Many have been killed and many more
will die in the coming days.

I am asking you to hold of giving for emergency relief. For many this
may sound callous. But as I have indicated, the emergency funds that
will be spent are already in the accounts of the aid organisations;
they can’t handle more in any real useful way for this emergency. The
giving from the knee jerk reaction of governments and the general
public will more than adequately cover these funds and replace the
contingency funds.

What I am asking you to do is to hold off until the rehabilitation
efforts get under way; when specific projects are developed that will
rebuild and hopefully improve conditions. Every tragedy is also an
opportunity. In the villages I visited water was managed using spring
capping and rainfall capturing technology that provide safe an ample
water for healthy communities. Many of these systems will need to be
repaired or rebuilt in the coming months.

I hope to be able to get in touch with the General Secretary of the
EEBH who hosted me during my visit and ask him to direct our giving.

In the meantime if you want to contribute to the relief efforts I
would like to suggest channelling that through the Salvation Army or
some other long term agency which does not spend a great portion of
what they receive on themselves and a great deal of advertising. But
do save the bulk of your generosity for the coming months when
rebuilding efforts get underway.

Please do continue to pray.

Your thoughts on the matter?

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Karen January 16, 2010, 9:11 pm

    I also am an industry professional and work for a large international NGO.
    While part of what is said is true for some organisations, this is not the case for all.

    My advice is to be wise and check out the organisation you are donating to and ask them exactly to where and to who the money is going.

    For example, the organiasation I work for has long term partnerships with our partners there for more than 25 years.

  • Alan January 18, 2010, 1:11 am

    This seems to make sense. Follow up on what you find here… We were thinking of donating for the dollar for dollar top up by the Canadian government.

  • Alan January 18, 2010, 11:43 am
  • Dick February 4, 2010, 7:32 pm

    Stop donations to Haiti altogether. Haiti has arrested 10 Baptist missionaries for “kidnapping” children? Really? Haiti was a cesspool before this earthquake, and it’s a bigger cesspool now. Obviously, these missionaries were trying to bring relief efforts to a small number of children, and now they face up to 30+ years in prison!! STOP ALL AID FROM THE U.S. TO HAITI. Maybe the Haitian government could show a little bit of appreciation instead of contempt. Disaster relief is a choice and not an entitlement. Continue to donate to worthy causes, but let’s help America out of one of its darkest times and let Haiti continue to wallow in its misery.

    • Lon February 6, 2010, 2:08 pm

      Thanks for commenting Dick. I agree, I don’t think disaster relief is an entitlement – but I do think it is a responsibility that all of us ought to have a hand in.

      I think as long as people remain in Haiti, it still matters. I don’t know if donations is the primary solution – but sometimes the way out of a dark is to go and serve where it’s even darker, and possibly in the process discover just how much light you already possess…

    • Joshua David February 17, 2010, 1:35 pm

      Everyone knows that missionaries are saintly, and would never endanger, or traffic children. Also, they are baptists, so their actions are as pure as that of Jesus Christ himself. We know these things because Dick will tell us.

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