August 28, 2011
Exceptional Succinct Analysis of US Government Emergency Aid to Haiti by Haiti Justice Alliance

Largest Recipients of $1.1 Billion in US Government Emergency Aid to Haiti in 2010

The labyrinthian conduits for aid to Haiti after the earthquake have been nearly impossible for non-experts to decipher – until now — thanks to the clear graphics and succinct summary provided by Haiti Justice Alliance in a three-part series of blog posts launched on August 23.  The Minnesota-based organization directed by Nathan Yaffe filed a Freedom of Information Act with USAID to discover the path of $1.1 billion in emergency aid released by USAID, the US State Department and the Department of Defense in 2010 to ostensibly benefit Haiti.  In fact, the disclosures reveal that corollary beneficiaries were US agricultural producers and shippers and massive international charities that typically sell donated American food commodities in disaster and famine zones, a discredited practice known as “food monetization.”  The U.S. military, mobilized after the quake, received the bulk of the emergency aid money, over $465 million. 

 

Following a long-practiced USAID policy of diverting US foreign aid away from the Haitian government, none of the $1.1 billion in emergency money went to Ministries of the Government of Haiti or to Haitian-led NGOs, which would know best who needed what and where in the wake of the disaster.   In addition to granting monies through United Nations agencies, USAID maintains pre-approved relations with large aid contractors such as DAI, Chemonics, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, and CHF International, which stand at the ready to respond when disaster strikes, explained USAID Haiti Country Director Russell Porter to me and a delegation of Haiti advocates from the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) at a meeting at USAID’s Washington, DC Headquarters in March of 2011. When pressed by the HAWG to designate a percentage of USAID reconstruction money for deployment by Haitian contractors and Haitian  NGOs, Porter said that those would need to comply with financial accounting and governance measures established by US Congress, a hurdle that not many Haitian companies or organizations could jump.  USAID was, however, holding community meetings to explain the requirements to Haitian entities. 

 

Further complicating the tracking of aid flows, notes Yaffe in a footnote, is that USAID is only one of 21 US Government agencies that report foreign aid expenditures, and these amount to only 52% of annual aid. A coalition of organizations known as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network is “advancing a reform agenda that will make U.S. development assistance and policy work harder for the American people and for people in developing countries…to maximize the impact of our assistance.”  In particular, the campaign urges such measures as streamlining distribution channels, simplifying objectives, and increasing reporting and monitoring.”  For more on MFAN see http://www.modernizeaid.net/about-us/

 

For Part I of the blog analysis which focuses on the governmental agency buckets receiving aid and the practice of “food monetization,” see “How the Government Used Our Money in Haiti:  FOIA Request,” http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/how-the-government-used-our-money-in-haiti-foia-request/  For a description of a recent US Government Accounting Office critique of “food monetization” see http://blogs.cgdev.org/mca-monitor/2011/06/new-gao-report-on-u-s-food-aid-and-monetization-reforms-needed.php.

 

For Part II, which identifies the contractors and international NGOS to which aid was funneled see http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/how-the-government-used-our-money-in-haiti-part-ii/.

 

I can’t wait to read Part III, which will highlight alternative paths for foreign aid in the wake of disasters!

 

The mission of Haiti Justice Alliance, based in Northfield, MN includes partnering with Haitian grassroots groups and “drawing attention to unjust US policies in Haiti, unjust media reporting abut Haiti, and detriminental, top-down NGO engagement with the Haitian people.”  For more about HJA see http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/about/