Ahead of Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of the earthquake, NGO’s, international agencies, and media outlets are issuing various summaries of what has been (and has not been) accomplished over the past year in terms of relief and reconstruction. Here’s a sampling of some of what has been released so far. We will post more summaries in the coming days.

Assessing NGO Efforts:

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Caroline Preston and Nicole Wallace reported yesterday that "In the year after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Americans gave more than $1.4-billion to aid survivors and help the impoverished country rebuild, according to a Chronicle survey of 60 major relief organizations. Roughly 38 percent of that sum has been spent to provide recovery and rebuilding aid." They go on to say:

The share of Haiti donations that has been spent is roughly the same as the amount spent one year after the tsunamis. A year after Hurricane Katrina, charities had spent about 80 percent of donations.

But the percentage of funds spent in Haiti varies widely among organizations.

While a few charities have distributed all the money they raised, others have big sums still on hand. For example, by the end of November, the American Red Cross, in Washington, had committed $188-million of its $479-million in private donations. It expects to have committed $245-million by the one-year anniversary of the earthquake this month.

On Wednesday, the Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) issued a report entitled "One Year Followup Report on the Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake"

seek[ing] to determine (1) Whether 196 organizations that solicited donations for Haiti disaster relief produced regular, factual reports on their activities; and, if so (2) How comprehensive, frequent, factual, and publicly accessible such reports were. (3) Determine how much money has been raised for Haiti relief, how much of that has been spent, and on what (i.e., healthcare, food, clean water, etc.).

The findings? According to DAP’s press release:

Of the 196 organizations surveyed:

Accountability: Lacking

• Only approximately 20%, or 38 groups, were responsive on time to our survey, and of those, a number provided incomplete answers.

  • 26 groups report raising money specifically for clean water efforts and 21 groups report raising money for sanitation efforts.

            • A total of $1.4 billion was raised by the 38 responding groups and $730 million or 52% was spent.

Transparency: Lacking

• 34 groups self-report as providing factual, public information on their websites. Our investigation found differently. 
• We found only 8 of 195 groups were somewhat or more transparent on their own websites. Most organizations' websites were full of anecdotes, aggregates, and appeals to emotion.

• Over 1.8 million dollars in interest reportedly raised by just 5 of the survey respondents.

• 10 groups reported that they did not know how much interest they have raised and the rest (23 groups) did not respond either way, indicating that this figure is likely higher.

"The fact that nearly half of the donated dollars still sit in the bank accounts of relief/aid groups does not match the urgency of their own fundraising and marketing efforts and donors' intentions, nor does it covey the urgency of the situation on the ground. This may be a disincentive for future giving by individuals and other governments," said Ben Smilowitz, Executive Director, Disaster Accountability Project.

Smilovitz also said, "There is no excuse for the cholera epidemic and deteriorating conditions on the ground given the amount of resources donated and available. With hundreds of millions in the bank and unspent, many groups continue to solicit additional donations.”

This CBC round-up is based on NGOs' own reports. The Red Cross spending is notable; even according to their own numbers, it is still less than 45% of their donations. The Red Cross' press release on their report describes only small amounts spent to help contain the cholera epidemic: "The American Red Cross has spent more than $4.5 million and plans to spend at least another $10 million to fight the spread of cholera."

Why the delay in releasing this $10 million? Considering that the Red Cross already has tens of millions of dollars designated for Haiti, and that there are well over one hundred thousand current cholera cases, shouldn’t this money be utilized as rapidly as possible to treat existing cases and stem the spread of the disease?

In a recent cholera update (from Dec 3) from the OCHA (UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), OCHA noted

The United Nations Secretary General made an urgent appeal today for funds to respond to the cholera outbreak in Haiti. During a General Assembly debate on Haiti today, he stressed that the UN appeal for 174 million dollars made last month has only been 20 percent funded and urged the donors to contribute more.

(This update also includes numbers on how many cholera treatments are available, and also chlorination, soap distribution, )

The Red Cross has stated in the past that

Of the more than $400 million raised to date, the American Red Cross expects to spend approximately $200 million to meet the survivors’ immediate needs — mostly in the first 12 months following the earthquake. The remainder of the funds raised, now a bit more than $200 million to date, will be allocated for long-term recovery.

So why doesn't the Red Cross ramp up spending now to do what is necessary to contain cholera, and provide people with viable shelter and sanitation? This has been the question for most of the past year, really, but the Red Cross' spending has continued to drag, as it has for many other big NGO's. Relief groups have been way behind on sanitation, for example, which has contributed to conditions allowing for cholera’s rapid spread. The above-mentioned OCHA update also states, “Although Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) clusters are now functioning in seven departments, there remains a systemic lack of actors” and that  "Despite the Cluster’s response, IDPs are in need of more WASH related items; including water purification tablets, as well as latrines and sensitization campaigns throughout camps in the earthquake affected areas."

As Reuters’ Joseph Guyler Delva ended his article Wednesday on Oxfam’s one-year report:

Dr. Unni Karunakara, president of the International Council of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), asked in an opinion column late last month in Britain's Guardian newspaper why so many Haitians, in a country filled to overflowing with as many as 12,000 foreign aid groups, had died of a disease that is easily treated and controlled.

Karunakara said MSF and a brigade of Cuban doctors were treating hundreds of patients every day, but few other agencies seemed to be implementing critical cholera control measures, such as chlorinated water distribution and waste management.

"In the 11 months since the quake, little has been done to improve sanitation across the country, allowing cholera to spread at a dizzying pace," he said.

Of course sanitation and cholera treatment are not the only areas where aid efforts have been behind the ball. In the Reuters article, Guyler Delva wrote:

"As Haitians prepare for the first anniversary of the earthquake, close to one million people are reportedly still displaced. Less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed," the report said.

Money is part of the problem, Oxfam said. The report cited U.N. figures showing that less than 45 percent of the $2.1 billion pledged for Haiti's reconstruction during 2010 at an international donor conference in New York in March had actually been disbursed.

More importantly, however, the report said a reconstruction commission chaired by Clinton and Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive had fallen short in many crucial areas.

And also:

In one glaring example of poor planning, the report said money had been made available for temporary housing, but almost no funds had been allocated for rubble removal. That's despite the fact that the quake, which destroyed 105,000 homes and damaged 208,000, left 20 million cubic meters of rubble.

Without debris removal, housing construction cannot begin in earnest and Oxfam said the volume of quake rubble in Haiti could fill enough dump trucks, parked bumper to bumper, to reach more than halfway around the globe.

Assessing the International Community’s Follow-Through:

The “less than 45 percent” figure cited above by Oxfam comes from an update by the UN Special Envoy for Haiti on November 23 regarding the international community's pledges: 42.3 percent disbursed. For 24 of the top donors who made pledges at the March 31 international donors' conference, they

pledged $5.75 billion (93 percent) of the $6.17 billion total for 2010 and 2011. For 2010 alone, the 24 donors pledged approximately $2.12 billion for recovery activities (excluding debt relief totaling $1.12 billion). Of the $2.12 billion, $897 million (42.3 percent) has been disbursed.

A new update from the UN Special Envoy for Haiti today regarding both international community aid efforts reports a “disbursement rate among [55, as opposed to just 24 of the top] public sector donors of 63.6 percent.

The analysis is based upon updates from 55 public sector pledge-makers at the March 31, 2010 international donors conference. These donors pledged approximately $2.01 billion for recovery activities in 2010. (This number does not include debt relief pledges totaling $1.06 billion). Of the $2.01 billion pledged, $1.28 billion (63.6 percent) was disbursed by year-end.

This $1.28 billion was disbursed through four channels:

  • $233.0 million in budget support to the Government of Haiti
  • $223.6 million in pooled grant funding to the United Nations, Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund
  • $688.9 million in grants to the Government of Haiti, multilateral agencies, NGOs and private contractors
  • $135.3 million in loans to the Government of Haiti

Regarding U.S. government aid, the Special Envoy noted previously that the U.S. kicked its 2010 pledge forward into the 2011 fiscal year:

The United States pledged $1.15 billion to Haiti for 2010 at the New York donors’ conference. In September 2010, the United States indicated that it intends to program the $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2011 (1 October 2010 – 30 September  2011). The Haiti pledge data set has been amended to reflect this change. Note that the United States has disbursed over
$1.18 billion in humanitarian assistance to Haiti since the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

(Where the $1.18b is the emergency aid that was disbursed in 2010, prior to the reconstruction fund commitment.) It also notes that the U.S. has contributed $120 million for the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. See this IRIN article from Oct 1 that attempts to unravel the confusion around the U.S. aid pledges and disbursement.

Update 1/10/11: The post has been edited for accuracy.