Haiti’s AWOL Aid

Who’s come through—and who hasn’t—on billions of dollars in Haiti recovery pledges.


Mother Jones’ full special report on Haiti includes Mac McClelland’s dispatch from its tent cities.

US GOVERNMENT: “Help is arriving. Much, much more help is on the way,” President Obama said two days after the quake. Three months later, Secretary of State Clinton announced that the US would give Haiti $1.15 billion for reconstruction. USAID has in fact delivered (PDF) more than $1 billion of emergency aid, but only $120 million of the promised reconstruction funds has arrived—thanks to the slow-moving bureaucracy of the appropriations process. Sen. John Kerry (PDF) (D-Mass.) has sponsored legislation authorizing up to $500 million in additional assistance in 2011, but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has put a hold (PDF) on the bill.

OTHER GOVERNMENTS: At a UN Donor Conference in March 2010, some 50 countries pledged $5.3 billion for rebuilding over the next two years. The admittedly terrible recordkeeping of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) indicates that all but 11 have made good (PDF), but cursory checking revealed that others were in arrears, including the US and former colonial power France (PDF).

NGOS: A post-quake fundraising frenzy netted big results for NGOs. Six months later, a Chronicle of Philanthropy review of 49 charities determined that they spent only $633 million of the $1.7 billion they collected for Haiti, almost all of it from Americans. The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, for example, had spent $4 million of the $50 million raised; Oxfam, $30 of $90 million; the Salvation Army, $6.8 of $20.5 million. While some had already delivered the majority of their funds—the United Nations Foundation spent $3.5 of $3.9 billion raised—many, like the American Red Cross ($117 out of $464 million), say they’re saving it for long-term development projects. While that’s a valid strategy, some charities spend as little as 3 percent on their programs. And Haitian-American singer Wyclef Jean’s Yéle charity has been accused of self-dealing.

CORPORATIONS: UNOCHA is pretty much useless when it comes to documenting the megamillions of aid that hundreds of corporations pledged. So we made some calls. GE has sent the $5.6 million it promised. Google has delivered the $1 million it pledged, Citi has sent $1.5 million out of $2 million and says the rest is on the way, and Wal-Mart committed $500,000—but then forked over $1.5 million, plus food and blankets. But…nearly a year after the quake, Bank of America had donated only half of its promised $1 million,* and MasterCard had given only $250,000 of the $4.75 million it pledged to give.

* Correction: A previous version said Bank of America had committed $1.5 million and delivered $500,000. At the time, we relied on the UN’s report for their total pledge. Bank of America has now clarified that their pledge was $1 million, and that after our story was published, they delivered in full.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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