News and analysis
January 05, 2012

Most Money Raised for Haiti Recovery Has Been Spent, but Needs Continue, a Chronicle Survey Finds

Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Andre and Nelta Renatus, with their daughter Andrica, are living in a new home built with American Red Cross support in Villambeta, near Port-au-Prince.

International aid charities have spent about two-thirds of the money they raised after the deadly earthquake that rattled Haiti nearly two years ago.

While some organizations still have a lot of cash on hand, others have been forced to scale back their work, particularly their plans to build permanent housing for homeless Haitians.

Over all, 60 groups and their international affiliates raised a total of $2.1-billion, including $1.43-billion from Americans, according to a Chronicle tally. Fifteen of 53 groups that provided updated information to The Chronicle had either spent all of their money or had less than $200,000 left.

Relief International has spent 81 percent of the $599,344 it collected after the disaster. The money it has left won’t be enough to pay for new homes, the group says.

Habitat for Humanity International has spent all of the $36.4-million it received. Food for the Poor, which, like Habitat, worked in Haiti for more than two decades before the quake, spent all of the $20.7-million it raised in the first 10 months after the disaster. The group has been more successful than most in constructing homes, building 2,681 permanent houses to date. But it has been drawing on its regular funds, rather than money raised specifically for earthquake recovery, since October 2010.

'Diminishing’ Coffers

Medical charities worry that they won’t be able to respond effectively if cholera resurges or if the country experiences another major health crisis.

International Medical Corps now has roughly 40 staff members in Haiti, compared with 700 in June. This month it plans to hand over to the government the last of the cholera treatment centers it has been overseeing. Of the $12-million it raised, the charity has spent $9.4-million.

“There are still 500,000 people in camps, there’s still a very broken health system, and there’s still endemic cholera and very little access to water and sanitation,” says Sean Casey, the charity’s Haiti country director. “Yet the level of funding has really diminished.”

Some groups are looking to the American Red Cross, which raised far more money than any other charity, to help out. The group is now acting like a grant maker, awarding some of its donations to other nonprofits.

The charity has so far pledged or spent $330-million of the $486-million it received. About $171-million has been committed to other nonprofits. A spokeswoman declined to specify what share has actually gone out the door but said it was the majority of the $330-million.

Groups that work on housing, like Habitat and Pan American Development Foundation, have received a total of $58.8-million from the Red Cross so far. Charities have been awarded more than $30-million for water and sanitation projects and $28-million for health care.

About 9 percent of the money raised pays for the Red Cross’s overhead costs. Other funds have gone to the Haitian Red Cross and the American Red Cross’s own emergency-relief efforts, helping Haitians prepare for future disasters, and other work.

As the two-year anniversary of the earthquake nears, aid officials are imploring donors not to give up on Haiti.

“We see signs that the government is starting to come through on promises,” says Angel Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor. “It’s not hopeless, it’s just slow.”

Noelle Barton and Peter Bolton contributed to this article.