The UN Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti has released updated data regarding the status of pledges made by donor countries in New York last March. As a cholera epidemic continues to spread, now claiming at least 1300 lives, the international community has failed to live up to their pledges. A total of $3.2 billion was pledged for 2010 alone, yet a full 35 percent of this is in the form of debt cancellation, which does not free up any fiscal space since Haiti was not paying interest on that debt. In total, out of the $2.12 billion in pledges for 2010 (excluding debt cancellation) just 42.3 percent has been distributed. The US, which made its first distribution last week, is counted as meeting 100 percent of their pledge, however this conceals the fact that the US changed its pledge time line in September of this year. After originally pledging $1.15 billion for 2010, in September the US pushed all of that funding back until fiscal year 2011 (which began in October). At this point the US has distributed just $120 million of its $1.15 billion pledge.
It is not just the United States, or individual governments that have failed to live up to their pledges. The European Commission has distributed just $48.6 million of its $223.6 pledge, while Canada is still $116 million short of its 2010 pledge. The Inter-American Development Bank has distributed just $50 million of the $326 million that it pledged.
Yet despite the dire situation on the ground, governments seem no more willing to open their wallets for Haiti. The UN says that only three percent of their $164 million emergency appeal to fight cholera has been funded. This only compounds the problem, as the original UN flash appeal from after the earthquake is still just 72 percent funded. The flash appeal to fight cholera is focused on three sectors: 1) health, 2) shelter, and 3) water, sanitation and hygiene. Yet these three sectors are still underfunded in the original appeal by almost $111 million dollars.
Even in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, many foreign governments and multilateral institutions were focused on long term reconstruction and development. Despite warnings from health experts and aid workers that the IDP camps were prime places for water-borne diseases and other second wave disasters, donors were slow to react and did not sufficiently front-load their pledges to deal with the most pressing problems; housing, health and sanitation.
It was not just foreign governments though, that failed to adequately prepare Haiti, but also the many NGOs and charities that have held onto significant sums of money for their long term plans. At the time, many, including this blog, argued that NGOs should spend their money right away, when the people most needed it; it was vital to provide adequate shelter and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease, we warned. Yet six months after the earthquake, NGOs and charities had raised over $1.3 billion dollars in private donations. Yet of that $1.3 billion, only a small fraction was actually spent. Of the largest organizations, the American Red Cross had spent just 25 percent of the $464 million it raised while Catholic Relief Services had spent just 22 percent of the $140 million it had raised for emergency relief.
As Cholera continues its rapid spread throughout Haiti, one cannot help wondering how better things may have been if more resources were committed much earlier to providing adequate shelter, sanitation, health care.