Was your donation for the Haiti earthquake spent well?

Farmer leader in Maissade, Haiti showing soil conservation work undertaken by internally displaced people.

Farmer leader in Maissade, Haiti showing soil conservation work undertaken by internally displaced people.

As the one year anniversary of the terrible January 12 earthquake approaches, many of those who have contributed to Haiti relief and recovery efforts have expressed frustration at the lack of progress.  As much as 20% of Haiti’s total population remains displaced and more than a million people are doing their best to survive in makeshift tent camps.  Now, a cholera epidemic is killing and sickening thousands of Haitians, and the country has just struggled through poorly organized elections!  People ask themselves how this can be when the world has mobilized to help on such a massive scale?  Why hasn’t all of the money donated and pledged been delivered? Is it worth donating to help Haiti?

We would like to provide you with a brief accounting of the money donated to Groundswell and Partnership for Local Development (PLD) to respond to the earthquake emergency:

  • Through November 1 we had raised $375,787 for earthquake response and recovery.
  • All of this money has now been spent on short-term recovery programs, supporting rural families to host over 10,000 people displaced by the January 12 earthquake.
  • 7% of the $375,787 raised was used for Groundswell administration and program support.
  • 3,097 displaced people participated in traditional work groups between February and October 2010, earning a total of $99,894.62 (an average of $32.25/person) through short-term work opportunities focused on rehabilitating productive infrastructure in the villages that were hosting them. They used the money for food, medicine, shelter and to send children back to school.
  • 96 hectares (233 acres) of farmland (representing approximately 1,000 farms) was improved using proven soil conservation techniques.
  • 65 kilometers (40 miles) of rural roads were repaired, providing access to isolated communities.
  • 414 family water filters and 239 community and family latrines were constructed, which together provide safe water or sanitation to some 10,000 people. Participants also received training on essential health and sanitation practices.
  • 13,200 trees were planted to protect critical watershed areas and farms, to reduce erosion and to provide resources for fodder, fuel and construction.
  • 25,694 kilograms (56,646 pounds) of seeds were secured for the planting season. Farmers were able to purchase this seed from local partner organizations at a reasonable price. This was necessary because seed prices skyrocketed after the earthquake and most farmers could not afford them.
  • 146 women affected by the earthquake received small loans to rebuild their businesses.
  • 12 locally run stores were created to sell subsidized basic foods (beans, rice, salt, etc.) and other essential supplies (batteries, basic medicines, etc.) to displaced people and host families, allowing them to get by on their reduced incomes. Subsidies are being gradually removed.
  • 50 displaced families received materials and technical assistance to build shelters.

It is worth mentioning that we are now supporting peasant organizations to respond to the cholera outbreak with education, oral rehydration, water purification and antibiotics.  Community health committees are leading the response locally and coordinating with government health posts where they exist. We have even provided basic support and resources to some of the overstretched health posts.

On December 2nd Steve Brescia, Groundswell’s International Director, spoke with Cantave Jean-Baptiste, Director of PLD. Steve asked Cantave if the support is making a difference in Haiti.  He said:

We cannot confirm what is happening with all of the money sent to other organizations.  Almost eleven months after the earthquake, if you ask me if I see any reconstruction process happening in Port-au-Prince, I will answer that we don’t see it.  At the macro level, the government and the United Nations are managing the country, and most of the Haitian people do not feel comfortable with what is happening.   But if you ask me what did Groundswell and PLD do with the money received, I will answer with the reports and numbers we have given, but I will also invite anyone to go to the rural areas to ask the same questions to the local organization leaders.  They will tell you how many seeds they were able to buy for the rainy season.  Many were able to harvest and reimburse local seed banks, and they are now hoping to build more community grain storage silos to have food and seeds for next planting season.… They will tell you how they used it to give people short term jobs, to rebuild roads, to do soil conservation.  At the grassroots level we are building confidence of the people.  Communities are getting more confident in themselves when they plan and carry out activities and see the impact.  Now we are focusing with them on the long term solutions.  We are trying to move away from the emergency response.  Now, responding to cholera needs to be a part of the long term solutions as well.”

Your donations to Groundswell and PLD have been well spent.  But money alone is not what is needed for Haiti to reverse its downward spiral. What is needed is a sustained, people-centered, nation-wide initiative to re-create strong, healthy and viable rural communities as a foundation for Haiti’s future development.  Haitians must lead the way.

Groundswell and PLD have proven that locally-led development processes can produce profoundly positive changes on a wide scale in Haiti with relatively little resources. Beginning in 2011 we are launching a three-year initiative to support 20 peasant organizations representing over 345,000 people to create strong, healthy and viable rural communities as a foundation for Haiti’s future development. There is hope for Haiti. It’s the Haitians.

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