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The Greatest Financial Outpouring of Sympathy in History
The 2010 Haiti earthquake was followed by one of the greatest financial outpourings of sympathy in human history. The money given was nothing short of spectacular. All totaled, corporations and individuals would donate $3.1 billion to help Haiti earthquake victims. Foreign governments pledged another $10 billion in aid. To put it into global perspective, all global disaster aid from private sources and from developed world governments amounted to $19 billion in 2010. That’s all the aid given for international disasters by every country on earth, from China to the U.S. to Sweden; and $13.1 billion of it went to Haiti. And it was donated in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Had it been handed over to the Haitian government it would have paid for thirteen years of the country’s national budget ($965 million in 2009). But it was not handed over to the Haitian government. Or rather, in that first year after the earthquake, the Haitian government got one percent of it. The other 99 percent of the money went to NGOs, among them Save the Children, the Red Cross, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Concern Worldwide, Mercy Corps, Food for the Poor, and Feed the Hungry; it went to UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Program; and it went to private humanitarian aid contractors, such as United States’ Chemonics and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI).
The expectation was that these organizations were the entities best equipped to deal with the crisis in Haiti. They had vast experience in dealing with poverty throughout the world. Most were founded in the 1950s or earlier. And many of them had been in Haiti for half a century or more. They had unrivaled worldwide administrations, professionals, volunteers and consultants. The expectation was that not only were they the most able to put Haiti back together, but with the avalanche of donations they could create a new Haiti. They could set the country on the path to prosperity that had so miserably eluded her for the two centuries since Haiti gloriously became the second country in the Western hemisphere to win its independence. As Bill Clinton said, “This is the best chance, even in spite of this horrible earthquake, the best chance Haiti ever had to escape the darker chapters of the past and build a brighter future.” He then sent up the rallying cry, “Build Back Better.”