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Haiti six months later: Where's the money?

July 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
[Editor's note: David Ono from ABC7 Eyewitness News recently returned to Haiti to see what progress has been made six months after the earthquake. Ono's reports reveal a side to Haiti that very few people are talking about. Watch what happens when Ono returns to Haiti, all week at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Eyewitness News.]

All week long Eyewitness News has shown you the heartbreaking stories of how the people of Haiti are suffering, even though the world has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help them. As a result, there is growing distrust in the government, and even in the charitable organizations.

Our figures show that Southern California has donated $62.5 million to help Haiti. And that's just the top eight charities. The actual amount is far above that.

That's why people are angry. We spent that much, yet still see these pictures of suffering. Have we been taken advantage of? Here's what we found out.

Six months after the earthquake we never expected to continue to see people's spirits broken. Their hope has turned to anger and distrust.

"I think there's something to some of that," said U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). "As a matter of fact, there's no system for accounting for all of the donations that come in from all over the world."

Congresswoman Waters has made several trips to Haiti and has seen the suffering in person. She says there's a terrible lack of transparency with the Haitian government, and as a result, she says our government needs to take a stronger approach.

"We want you to show us how you received this money, how you dispensed this money, who's in charge of doing it and how it gets out to the people, because we have just gone through the camps and they're not getting it," said Waters. "We're going to have to get tougher."

The world's countries have pledged $5.3 billion to the Haitian government. Only 2 percent of that has been given. Could distrust play a role? Even the U.S. hasn't paid.

But there's another huge category of money, and that's where you probably fall in: charitable donations like the Red Cross, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders. These organizations have received $1.3 billion.

And there are a lot of them.

"The best count anyone has is over 930 organizations inside of Haiti responding to the disaster," said Saundra Schimmelpfennig, founding director of The Charity Rater. "Imagine attempting to coordinate 930 different organizations."

Schimmelpfennig is an expert on non-profits and understand the complications. She says the situation in Haiti is extremely complicated.

Take, for instance, the reason aid groups are no longer giving food to the hungry. It's because the Haitian government asked them to stop.

"The reason for this is if you import a lot of food and you give it away for free you put a lot of people out of work," said Schimmelpfennig. "You put the food importers, you put the distribution, you put the shopkeepers out of work and pretty soon you've got a lot more people who are now desperate for aid as well."

Haiti's unemployment rate is around 90 percent. How do get money to buy food?

While some organizations like Doctors Without Borders have spent almost every penny donated to help Haitians, other organizations like the Red Cross haven't even spent half.

"We're talking about spending roughly $200 million over the next year in areas like transitional housing," said said Paul Schulz, chief executive officer of The American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles. "So we're lining up the material and the labor. Now what we need is the proper land from the government to start building."

Land may be the biggest reason for this humanitarian catastrophe. Only a handful of rich families own most of the land in Haiti. They don't want indigent people living on it. And so far the Haitian government has not come up with a solution. As a result, one and a half million people are trapped in transitional camps and continue to suffer.

Another infuriating fact: There are warehouses filled with food, goods and medical supplies already in Haiti. A lot of it arrived in January, right after the quake, but because of the lack of coordination between the relief organizations and the government, it's just sitting there.

That blunder is costing lives.

As a preacher leads a prayer service in the pediatric ward of Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince, tucked away in a crib against the wall is a little girl. Weeks ago she developed an infection on the brain. A simple dose of antibiotics would have saved her. Doctors couldn't find any, even though there were warehouses filled with them.

The infection spread and now there's nothing anyone can do to save her.

The bottom line is Haiti still needs a lot of help. Charities would love for you to continue to support them and they will do all they can to help the suffering.

Once the land issues are settled, a tremendous amount of money will be needed to help people rebuild.


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