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Haiti’s Troubled History May Slow Aid to Earthquake Victims

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Humanitarian aid is flowing into Haiti following Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in that country and a death toll that has reached 1,297. However, political unrest in the Caribbean nation, as well as the approach of a tropical storm, are complicating efforts.

Nonprofit groups and philanthropy experts say the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, as well as allegations that the money raised after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti never reached those in need, will make it even more difficult to raise funds for the nation.

Art delaCruz, executive director of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that deploys emergency response teams to work with first responders in disaster areas, said the first briefing his teams in Haiti and the Dominican Republic had with support teams in the United States it was about security.

“The assassination of the president, the almost gang existence there, really increases the risk for organizations like ours that are deployed in this situation,” said delaCruz. However, Team Rubicon, which was founded in 2010 by Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, has experience on the ground in the country and in similar situations around the world.

“It is risky for everyone because the information is incomplete and the situation is dynamic,” said delaCruz. “One way that we have a competitive advantage in this is that we are an organization where 70% of the volunteers are veterans. They have seen this kind of environment. “

Skyler Badenoch, executive director of Hope for Haiti, a Florida nonprofit, says the response has also been complicated because its staff have been directly affected by the disaster. The organization is now preparing to distribute $ 60 million worth of first aid supplies and medical equipment to help those affected, he said.

Aid to Haiti has been investigated for years and scrutiny intensified in 2015 when an investigation by ProPublica and NPR questioned where $ 500 million raised by the American Red Cross was spent.

The American Red Cross said in an emailed statement that it is not seeking donations to help Haiti at this time, but will work with its partners, including the Haitian Red Cross and Red Crescent, to respond to the earthquake. “We will provide support to help meet the needs of families affected by the earthquake, as we have in the past,” the statement said.

He also questioned the ProPublica / NPR findings. “Contrary to the allegations, the American Red Cross has had a significant impact in Haiti, including investing in more than 50 hospitals and clinics, safer housing for more than 22,000 families, financing for the country’s first wastewater treatment plant. , support for Haiti’s first plant cholera vaccination campaign and much more, ”he said in a statement. “Americans donated generously after the 2010 Haiti earthquake to save lives, which is exactly what their donations did. In fact, we spend almost a third of donations to help keep people alive in the first six months alone. “

Despite criticism the Red Cross has received, Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre, a humanitarian aid expert and professor at George Washington University, believes donors will continue to trust the organization because of its reputation.

“It has been resilient,” he said, in part because donors easily recognize the organization for its work with blood drives and other things.

This time, Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Family Action Network Movement, a social service organization based in the “Little Haiti ”in Florida, says his organization will design a plan to hold accountable all groups that are collecting donations for Haiti.

“We definitely don’t want another movie called ‘Where did the money go’?” Bastien said, referring to the 2012 documentary that he analyzed donations given to aid Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

The deadly earthquake struck Haiti as a growing humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ethiopia and instability shakes Afghanistan. Deloffre of George Washington University believes the fundraising outlook for the country is bleak.

“Unfortunately, I do not expect broad global attention to the earthquake in Haiti,” he said. “Or public donations, on the same scale we saw in response to the 2010 earthquake.”

Past accusations of wasted donations have also raised some questions, said Badenoch of Hope for Haiti, although the need after the most recent earthquake may be even more intense.

“It is very possible that Haiti needs more help than ever,” said Akim Kikonda, country representative for Catholic Relief Services in Haiti.

“The area was slowly recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but the drought and two recent tropical storms have largely destroyed the scarce livelihoods that people had been able to restore,” said Kikonda. “After the earthquake on Saturday, it’s only going to get worse.”

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