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  • 13Jul

    Charitable Giving in Haiti Unused Despite Dire Need

    From npr

    First of two parts

    Six months ago Haiti was rocked by a 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, left more than 1.5 million homeless and destroyed the country’s capital and surrounding areas.

    Americans gave generously to thousands of charities helping the Caribbean nation deal with the devastation. Elementary school students donated their pennies while rock stars reunited for an updated version of the “We Are The World” concert.

    The charitable outpouring for Haiti has been huge. To date, Americans have phoned, texted and mailed in more than $1.3 billion, according to The Chronicle Of Philanthropy.

    Much money was spent on immediate relief, but hundreds of millions of dollars remain in the coffers of nonprofit organizations from the American Red Cross to Oxfam.

    The donations to Haiti almost equaled the money raised from Americans after the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004. However, the donations for tsunami relief were distributed among several countries.

    The charities directing aid to Haiti say they are spending the money wisely. Legally, American charities only have to account for their finances once a year at tax time.

    Money In The Bank

    NPR surveyed dozens of groups working in Haiti — including organizations like The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and Doctors Without Borders. The NPR questionnaire asked about their finances and projects and found that many charities still have substantial amounts of donations in the bank.

    The Hope for Haiti Now telethon in January, hosted by actor George Clooney with performances from Sting and Beyonce among many others, raised $66 million. Yet it wasn’t until last week that the charity announced it was distributing the remaining $35 million.

    The American Red Cross, with the lion’s share of charitable donations for Haiti, raised nearly half a billion dollars, but says it has spent only one-third.

    Like most groups, the Red Cross says it would not have been prudent to spend all the money raised in just six months. The organization plans to be in Haiti providing relief services for several years.

    Peter Walker, director of the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, says that makes perfect sense. “The reality is that after a crisis like this the ability of a country to absorb money and to use it wisely really goes down,” he says.

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