Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers About Haiti Earthquake Relief 

1. Two years after the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in deplorable conditions. Why is it taking so long to fix these problems?

We think it’s unacceptable that more than 500,000 Haitians—many of them women and children—are still living in tent camps. Those who remain in the camps are the poorest and most vulnerable.  

It’s important to note, however, that since the earthquake, close to 1 million people have left tent camps and have moved into homes or temporary shelters. To find permanent housing solutions, land rights issues must be resolved.

The reasons for the slow progress in Haiti are many. Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake. In 2009, UN agencies reported that 50 percent of Haitians lacked access to potable water; nearly a quarter of the population was undernourished; and an estimated 500,000 children never attended school.

The earthquake response was challenged not only by the scale of the disaster but by the reality of an already difficult and costly operating environment, made more complex after the earthquake. The costs of operating in Haiti – everything from fuel and security to staffing and shipping – make Haiti an expensive country from which to operate.

Moreover, government capacity, already limited prior to the earthquake, was devastated by the loss of lives and infrastructure in key ministries. With the massive destruction of life and infrastructure, material and human resources were brought in from the outside at higher cost. Humanitarian relief efforts were further challenged by the cholera epidemic of October 2010—which continues today—and Hurricane Tomas in November of 2010. Budget lines typically reserved for transitional funding at the end of a relief effort were allocated to meet new urgent needs.  

2. Why should we believe that the situation in Haiti will improve in the years ahead?

The earthquake in Haiti got the world’s attention. It was the worst urban disaster in recent memory. Support poured in from countries around the world. The global interest in the disaster means governments, donors and citizens got involved. Many are still engaged in Haiti. Moreover, the proximity to the United States, the involvement of the U.S. government and the commitment of thousands of Americans means Haiti is still on the radar screens of many. Haiti President Michel Martelly and his administration have brought renewed focus and energy toward development. Aid groups are committed to Haiti for the long-term.

3. How much money have you raised? Spent?

To date Save the Children has raised $128,093,747 for earthquake and cholera response programming in Haiti from a variety of generous institutional, corporate, government and individual donors. As of November 30, 2011, we have spent $100,127,584 on responding to the earthquake, cholera outbreak and Hurricane Thomas. The rest of the funds will be spent before the end of 2012.

4. What have you spent the money on?

In 2011, we spent $8.8 million on education, $6.4 million on health; and $6.6 million on water, sanitation and hygiene. We are supporting cholera treatment units and 35 facilities that provide antenatal, postnatal and newborn care. Through our education program, more than 44,000 children are enrolled in 167 schools that are reached by our quality education initiative.

After the January 2010 earthquake, Save the Children developed a five-year plan for Haiti. In the coming three years, we will focus our efforts on education, health and nutrition, and child protection.

5. Why have NGOs downsized and closed operations when there are still so many needs?

According to a recent article by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, many humanitarian agencies are running low on resources to fund development projects. According to research by the publication, 60 humanitarian organizations raised a total of $2.1 billion since the earthquake. But 15 of 53 groups report having spent all of their resources or had less than $200,000 left. Other groups say funding is running low during a crucial time when Haitians needs continued assistance.

Because of this lack of long-term funding, most NGOs are reducing their programs, staffing and operational costs. Fifteen major NGOs who agreed to self-report their finances (including Save the Children, World Vision, Care, Oxfam, Plan, Action Contre la Faim, International Medical Corps, Catholic Relief Services, Handicap International, MDM, etc.) reported that in 2010 they collectively spent $460 million dollars. This year, however, they anticipate budgets of $230 million dollars, or a 50 percent reduction from what was spent in 2011.