How The Government Used Our Money In Haiti: Part II

Part 2 of a 3-part series of posts based on our FOIA query.

We received data on how the US government spent more than $1.1 billion in Haiti during 2010 through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry. In our last post, we looked at the spending breakdown by mechanism. This time, we analyze the individual recipients of aid.

Haiti experts have repeatedly criticized the US for excluding the Haitian government and Haitian companies from the reconstruction. The FOIA data proves them right: USAID and the State Department gave money to 6 US government entities and 7 UN agencies, but none to the Haitian government. Moreover, no NGOs or contractors listed in the FOIA were Haitian.



The Big Recipients: Faith in Government

The graph below shows the largest recipients of aid. Military aid was excluded from this analysis, because we covered it last time. For perspective, the average disbursement size is roughly $7 million.

Most money went to governmental or intergovernmental efforts, followed by contractors, with NGOs receiving the least.


World Food Program Dwarves Other UN Agencies; UN Dwarves Other Efforts

Of the money for the UN, more went to the World Food Program (WFP) than to all other agencies combined. $70 million of the WFP’s $115 million was used for 55,280 metric tons of Title II food aid. Title II aid continued throughout the year despite the objections of many Haitian activists, who called on foreigners to stop bringing food aid shortly after the disaster.

The next largest WFP allocation was $35 million for a cash-for-work (CFW) program. The first Inspector-General report on CFW programs in Haiti suggested they were expensive and inefficient: it found CFW had only created 30% of the expected number of jobs. Moreover, a recent Haiti Grassroots Watch report revealed that these CFW programs are plagued by corruption and sexual abuse of participants.[1]

On the other hand, UN Habitat, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Organization of Migration only received $1.5, $3.8, and $15 million[2], respectively. Given that the most intractable reconstruction challenge has been resettling 600,000 people still stranded in tent camps, it’s particularly striking that food aid was prioritized over tent camps.

Why didn’t we bolster UN agencies focused on urban planning, refugees, and population movement? The challenge of drafting a resettlement plan was clear. Instead, the only approach that has been widely implemented is one of forced, illegal evictions.

It’s impossible to say with certainty why the US allocated funds to the UN as it did. However, by under-funding resettlement while pouring money into the inefficient and potentially harmful food aid system, the US leaves itself open to questions about whether our aid was based on Haiti’s needs or its own.

Controversial Contractors and NGOs

The only aid mechanism devoted specifically to rebuilding rather than relief is the “Office of Transition Initiatives.” They put Haiti’s future entirely in the hands of two contractors: Chemonics and Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI)[3].

Chemonics raises eyebrows for multiple reasons. First, it’s a subsidiary of ERLY Industries, which also owns American Rice. Since the 1980s, American Rice captured half of the Haitian rice market, a shift that Bill Clinton recently admitted was the reason Haiti can no longer feed itself. Moreover, the agricultural program it runs, which revolves around distributing hybrid Monsanto seed, is likely to jeopardize the future of Haiti’s agricultural system.

DAI, World Vision, and CHF International have also all been the subject of media scrutiny for their activities both in and out of Haiti.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research described DAI as having a “questionable past” of putting political objectives above humanitarian goals. Last year, World Vision came under fire for using “discredited” aid practices by aid critic Bill Easterly. Finally, CHF International’s spending habits were labeled “ostentatious” in a feature that also contained a confession from CHF’s field director that the organization has no experience in the role it’s filling in Haiti.

Lessons Learned?

This is not simply a matter of digging for dirt on humanitarians in Haiti. The aid discussed in this article represents the vast majority (excluding military spending) of the money the US government spent on Haiti after the earthquake. Moreover, in the cases of World Vision, DAI, and those distributing Title II Food Aid, USAID is supporting practices and actors who’ve been singled out by aid experts as ineffective or harmful.

In Part III, we explore broader lessons from part 1 and 2 of this FOIA series. 

[1] CHF International, another of the top recipients listed above, also ran some of the cash-for-work programs analyzed by Haiti Grassroots Watch for their report.

[2] For shelter and settlements. IOM also received funds for infrastructure and other projects.

[3] The records USAID released to us did not differentiate between money to Chemonics and DAI.

6 Responses to How The Government Used Our Money In Haiti: Part II

  1. These are phenomenal blog posts analyzing US emergency aid to Haiti. Thank you for making the incredibly complicated landscape of aid flows comprehenisible. I reposted your blogs here:

  2. Nathan Yaffe says:

    Dear Karen,

    Thanks for the kind words, and for reposting. I will check back to your blog often – as this is the first I’ve seen it. Don’t be a stranger!


  3. haitijustice says:

    […] both of which the US is chastised for using because they’re either ineffective or harmful. The second post showed that most of the rest of the money went to the UN – followed by private contractors […]

  4. […] both of which the US is chastised for using because they’re either ineffective or harmful. The second post showed that most of the rest of the money went to the UN – followed by private contractors […]

  5. Excellent information & well documented.

  6. Nathan Yaffe says:


    Thanks for the kind words, and for stopping by our blog. I’ve added you to my Google Reader, as I hadn’t seen your blog before.

    Hope you visit us here again!

    Best wishes,

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