Do our charity donations actually reach the victims?

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On January 12th 2010, at 4:53pm a massive earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.0Mw struck the impoverished country of Haiti. The scale of the devastation is difficult to comprehend; the official numbers confirmed 230,000 killed, 300,000 injured, 250,000 homes destroyed, leaving 1,000,000 residents homeless.

It became immediately obvious that a massive international relief effort would be required to initially deliver the basic essentials of life and prepare for the future rebuilding of Haiti. From a personal perspective, as I witnessed the total devastation, I realized that the tens of thousands of people roaming dishevelled and aimlessly through the streets, that they had all lost their most fundamental needs: fresh water, food, shelter, medicines, infrastructure, leadership with coordination skills, and an effective government, etc. After absorbing the initial shock of this natural disaster the overwhelming emotion is to try and comprehend how can we as individuals offer any type of assistance to help alleviate the pain and suffering for the Haitian people? I was motivated to do whatever I could to try to raise as much money as possible and then donate it to one of the major multi-national charity organizations; my decision was to donate to The Canadian Red Cross. My friends and I arranged to raise money through the local community by organizing a bottle drive; the collected money was immediately donated.

My original belief, expectation and hope were based on an assumption that any donations that were raised for countries in distress, like Haiti, that the monies would reach the people that truly needed them the most help. But how could I be absolutely sure that if I did donate money to a charity, that my money would actually be used for what it was originally intended? I wanted some assurance that our financial commitment was supporting the initial efforts in the rescue and care for the injured, the delivery of immediate supplies of food and clean water, construction of temporary housing and the longer term recovery and rebuilding of the country. It is critical to our conscience that we receive this type of assurance that our personal donation is contributing to the immediate and long-term relief of suffering; if our money is not actually reaching the people we are trying to help then what theoretically is the point?

Argument

According to the research that I have completed, I would argue that only a small fraction of the monies donated to Non-Government Organizations (NGO`s) such as The Canadian Red Cross for the Haitian Relief Fund actually gets through to the thousands of victims still suffering in Haiti and that the majority of the monies raised from individuals like my friends and I, is used by the organizations for their own political and administrative purposes.

Support Arguments

Ian McAllister's article, "Relief, development and peacekeeping: fragile connections. Perspectives drawn from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent." outlines a historical analysis of the Red Cross revealing the changing priorities over time. He notes that the "International Red Cross movement dates back to the middle of the last century and it has witnessed numerous changes" (McAllister, 1998). He states that the "Red Cross has developed a radical reordering of priorities, particularly as Third World needs became better recognized and public funds for overseas emergency aid became more accessible" (1998). Through the years, the Red Cross has created common procedures and established working links in each country that may require assistance. McAllister's article demonstrates the constant improvement of the Red Cross organization and its commitment to helping third world countries, along with providing support for the Red Cross' history of aid to devastated countries.

The Canadian Red Cross is a part of one of the world's most recognized and respected international charities and one of the few global NGO's that is capable of responding at the appropriate level to a disaster of the magnitude that struck Haiti. They have gained their credibility and experience through the delivery of the much needed medical support, food, clothing, and basic shelter into areas of natural disasters, for the people to start the process of re building their lives. A report released from The Canadian Red Cross organization, "Haiti Earthquake Response", states they have been "committed to supporting earthquake affected communities in Haiti through the initial critical period, by providing emergency health care, relief items, shelter and support" (n.a., 2011). The Canadian Red Cross has deployed aid workers and urgently needed supplies to support relief efforts in Haiti and will continue to send supplies and personnel as needed. This source provides support for the idea that the Red Cross organization has helped impoverished countries, however, this article is published by the Canadian Red Cross, and it does not critically examine aid at a deeper level, such as the distribution of monies; therefore there is a strong bias toward the argument that aid is being properly distributed.

Sentinel News Service's article, "Haiti: Seven Months After the Earthquake", reports the occurrences seven months after the earthquake in Haiti and the news is not encouraging. The article states that thousands of relief and rescue workers, doctors, nurses and charity aid workers still have not made a dent into the earthquake victim's pain and misery. The people's living conditions remains indescribable and the suffering continues for the most vulnerable of the Haitian people. "For every one person or family that is helped, there are hundreds of families that go unattended; this ineffective assistance is further impeded by the territoriality that is the United Nations (UN) and NGO community" (n.a., 2010). Since this article reports pain, misery and families left unattended, it demonstrates the ineffective help being done by NGO's. In the same month, Hiaasen and Charles' article, "Despite $1.2 billion In donations, Haiti shows scant signs of recovery", reports that the news is far from encouraging and totally unacceptable; 83% of the original rubble still remains untouched, thousands of bodies are still buried within the rubble, hundreds of thousands are still living in make-shift shelters, disease (cholera) has broken out in the shanty towns and the rapidly increasing death tolls are now being reported, abuse and rape of young women is escalating out of control.

These two sources display that a small amount of progress is being achieved by the Non-Government Organizations and the result is Haitians are still today suffering horrific conditions. The NGO's continue to send out the message that continuous aid and support is needed, or the people of Haiti may be doomed. The fact that only a little amount of work is being done proves that only a fraction of the monies donated to Non-Government Organizations actually gets through to the thousands of victims. Thus, it leads me to wonder where all of our donations are going, especially considering if the Haitian people are still suffering months following the earthquake.

Reed Lindsay's article, "Haiti's excluded", argues "of all the moneys sent to Haiti, only 10 percent actually makes it onto the ground, the rest is spent on foreign experts, hotels, car rentals, hotel conferences" (Lindsay, 2010). There are problems found in the aid distribution from Non-Government Organizations. Lindsay also argues that if aid is being distributed to Haiti, it is not being used properly, "It's foreign aid that is helping the people in Port-au-Prince. But we could respond to their needs. We should be feeding them" (Lindsay, 2010). This reveals the lack of help that certain organizations are providing for these beleaguered countries, specifically in Haiti. Felix Salmon's article, "Don't give money to Haiti", disputes that one of the lessons people have learned from trying to rebuild failed states elsewhere in the world is that throwing money at the issue is very likely to backfire or fail. He states "if you want to be certain that you donation will be well spent, you might be a bit worried that, for instance, the Red Cross has still only spent 83% of its $3.21 billion tsunami budget - which means that it has over half a billion dollars left to spend" (Salmon, 2010) This money could have been spent in Haiti, if it weren't for the fact that it was already earmarked for longer term rebuilding strategies. This shows that Non-Government Organizations such as the Red Cross receive tons of money but they are not able to distribute it properly, let alone use it for the right purposes.

In the year following the earthquake, Karen Stephenson's article, "Haiti Earthquake - One Year Later", illustrates that The Canadian Red Cross 2010 Haiti Response Financial Update raised $200 million. As of November 30, 2010 the Canadian Red Cross committed $117 million to certain projects. The breakdowns of monies that have been spent are as follows:

Contributions paid to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) $32,340,000

Contributions paid to the International Committee of the Red Cross $304,000

Emergency Response Unit Hospital $3,046,000

Emergency Relief Items $2,028,000

Deployment of relief and recovery staff $1,077,000

Outbreak response - cholera $460,000

IFRC shelter program $21,770,000

Canadian Red Cross shelter program in Jacmel and Leogane $15,578,000

Hurricane preparation activities $3,030,000

Other recovery programming and support $9,848,000

This breakdown shows a fair distribution of money to relief items and shelter programs; although the largest portion of money distributed - $32,340,000 - is being distributed to the IFRC, the organization itself for its own administrative and political purposes. As well, they had raised $200 million, but only $117 million was committed, where has $73 million gone to? Although, this figure shows that NGO's help, they do not aid to the full extent.

These three sources reveal that Non-Government Organizations distribute their donations poorly. Haiti requires a lot of immediate help and this requires the payments of monies to deliver the most basic requirement, NGO's such as the Red Cross are not prioritizing their money distribution properly and are only using a small fraction of the monies donated.

One year after the earthquake in Haiti, Kevin McNeir's article, "Haiti Destroyed", reports that "there is no way people should be living in Haiti like they are one year, later, shortly after the disaster struck, they were optimistic because the international community was standing with them. Now they wonder if they are still committed to helping them rebuild" (McNeir, 2011). Haiti went through a huge amount of destruction and the country is still destroyed. Non-Government Organizations will be losing interest in helping Haiti because the disaster was over a year ago. The reconstruction of Haiti needs to happen with all the help they can receive no matter the amount of time it will take. In the same month, Yvette Cabrera's article, "Haiti still defined by earthquake; the country remains devastated a year after the disaster, but hope exists in the form of dedicated young Haitian", reports that "the Haitian residents I spoke to during my trip felt abandoned by the outside world, charities, by their government; even by those Haitians who fled the country after the quake" (Cabrera, 2011). Even one year after, Haitians are still feeling abandoned, where has all the money that individuals have donated gone if Haiti has not received it.

These two sources show that NGO's do not help third world countries like Haiti that are in desperate need to their full potential. This demonstrates that our donations are not properly distributed because Haiti is not rebuilding; it proves that the money is used by the organizations for their own political and administrative purposes. It does take time to rebuild a country that has been devastated by an earthquake but much more work should have been done to help Haiti as such articles report, it is mind blowing that NGO's cannot distribute donated money effectively and efficiently.

Conclusion

Following my research, it has become apparent that only a small amount of money donated to the Red Cross actually gets through to the Haiti people and that the majority of money is used by the organization for its own internal purposes. It is important for organizations to be more transparent about their donation policies because a lot of the money is not directly helping victims of disasters.

Charitable organizations need to change their methods of communication, if they intend to tell the world that donated monies are going to those that need it most, they need to qualify this statement by confirming what proportion of the total sum is reaching those in most need. The world has the right to be told what is happening with our donated money, if the charities refuse to do so, new disclosure laws need to be mandated by the federal government. It is critical that individuals, NGO's and the government of rich first world countries like Canada help to provide the necessary aid, reconstruction, and/or development to third world countries like Haiti, especially when they are in such desperate need and are unable to effectively help themselves.

Sources

n.a. (2010, September). "Haiti: Seven Months After the Earthquake." Sentinel, 76(33), A1. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=0&did=2147959401&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1289839528&clientId=14119

n.a. (2011, January). Haiti Earthquake Response. Retrieved from Canadian Red Cross website: http://www.redcross.ca/haiti2010/red-cross-response/red-cross-response.asp

Cabrera, Y. (2011, January). Haiti still defined by earthquake; the country remains devastated a year after the disaster, but hope exists in the form of dedicated young Haitians. Retrieved from http://global.factiva.com.proxy.queensu.ca/aa/?ref=OCR0000020110112e71b0000e&pp=1&fcpil=en&napc=S&sa_from=

Hiaasen, S & Charles, J. (2010, October). Despite $1.2 billion In donations, Haiti shows scant signs of recovery. Retrieved from http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/10/1724715/despite-12-billion-in-donations.html

Lindsay, R. (2010). Haiti's excluded. The Nation, 12, 18-22. Retrieved from http://proxy.queensu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=48489658&site=ehost-live

McAllister, Ian.  (1998). "Relief, development and peacekeeping: fragile connections. Perspectives drawn from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent." Peace Research, 30(3), 15.  Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdlink?Ver=1&Exp=11-07-2015&FMT=7&DID=390786691&RQT=309

McNeir, K. (2011, January). Haiti Destroyed. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.proxy.queensu.ca/pqdweb?did=2263507481&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=14119&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Salmon, F. (2010, January). Don't give money to Haiti. Retrieved from http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/01/15/dont-give-money-to-haiti/

Stephenson, K. (2011, January). Haiti Earthquake - One Year Later. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/content/haiti-earthquake--one-year-later-a331342 Haiti Destroyed #ixzz1EvGJSboK

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