The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Aid for Earthquake Refugees Doesn’t Get to Them

Aug 30, 2010

The following was translated from an article in the July 30 issue of Voix des Travailleurs (Workers Voice), put out by Organisation des Travailleurs Révolutionnaires (the Organization of Revolutionary Workers) in Haiti.

Six months after the January 12th earthquake in Haiti – which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of wounded and pushed two million homeless people into makeshift camps, an assessment of relief efforts was done. In addition to food, water, tents, etc., billions of dollars were collected in record time from people around the world.

But six months later, as all the media point out, very little has changed in the living conditions of the disaster victims, stuffed like sardines in the camps. The vast majority still rot in revolting conditions, despite the billions of dollars donated to help them.

The Haitian state, which is the biggest landlord in the country, pretends that it doesn’t have lands to construct public housing to shelter the victims! But why couldn’t our rulers requisition all vacant lands, wherever it is, whoever it belongs to, to house hundreds of thousands of homeless people?

The charities operating in Haiti, which got most of the funds for humanitarian aid, pretend they depend on the Haitian state, although it has no control over their billions. They hide behind the break-down of the Haitian government while keeping funds collected for their own expenses.

According to the testimony of disaster victims in several camps, even food and water assistance, passed out sparingly in the weeks after the earthquake, has been abruptly stopped.

Are there really no funds available in Haiti? An article published in the Haitian paper Le Soleil (The Sun) gives an idea of what is going on: “In Port-au-Prince, where numerous hotels collapsed in the earthquake, the Plaza Hotel remains standing and does almost $100,000 a week in business.” According to an employee of this hotel complex, “Since January 13th, all our 95 rooms are occupied at $150 a night.... It’s a radical change for the hotel which formerly belonged to the Holiday Inn chain and where only 40% of the rooms were normally occupied during the month of January.”

The figures speak for themselves. But if, in addition to this $100,000 from room rates, we add the profit realized by food and drink, also charged in U.S. dollars, how much does the total add up to?

The Plaza isn’t the only hotel complex to remain standing, nor the most expensive. The Caribe, Villa Creole, Suite Horizon and Holoffson, with higher rates, are all overbooked since the earthquake, and are also pulling in money.

Hotels filled with charity employees and consultants of all sorts are only one aspect of the squandering of the funds given to aid Haitian disaster victims.... In the same way, the car rental companies put in urgent orders for new fleets of All Terrain Vehicles to meet the endless demand.

Since the earthquake, an estimated one thousand non-governmental organizations are in Haiti. It was estimated they had spent two billion dollars in the first three months. Imagine how large the sum is after seven months! In any event, it’s impossible to even roughly add up the sum tossed around by all these organizations since no one can check their accounts.

According to another source, just through the end of March, sums of the following levels were paid out on more than 3,000 foreign “volunteers”: 27 million dollars for air fare, at a cost of $900 per volunteer, a sum 60 million dollars for their housing, at a cost of $200 a person per night in a hotel for 10 days, a sum of 30 million dollars spent for food, at a cost of $100 per person per day, without taking into account other costs, like car and bus travel, etc. In total, more than 75% of the funds accounted for were eaten up in this way.