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September 21, 2015

Big Aid Groups 'Misleading' Donors on Nepal Work, Says Watchdog

Major global aid charities surveyed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation about their Nepal earthquake response have spent up to one-sixth of funds raised in disaster appeals on overhead.

Nonprofit watchdog the Disaster Accountability Project criticized the estimates, noting that many of the agencies are doing little direct work on the ground in hard-hit areas, instead "regranting" money to local groups at the behest of Nepal's government.

Communities affected by the quakes in April and May have criticized the emergency response, saying some areas have seen little evidence of the nearly $475 million raised in United Nations appeals. "The response is not helped by international humanitarian charities inflating the cost of doing business when they are not actually doing the work on the ground," said Ben Smilowitz, executive director of the watchdog group, who termed the regranting "misleading" to international charities' donors.

Overhead estimates among the surveyed charities ranged from 5 percent of the Salvation Army's Nepal spending to 17 percent for AmeriCares. Michael Nyenhuis, the latter group's president and CEO, said its rate was lower than those approved by the U.S. Agency for International Development to its grantees. He said AmeriCares has 10 of its own staff in Nepal and has provided about $21 million of medicines and medical supplies to the country.