Haiti in the making: ‘Abuse’ of Nepal earthquake funds by international charities

Nepal earthquake
File photo: Sindhupalchowk district after the April 25 disaster.

A report by Thomson Reuters Foundation has revealed how international charity organisations are, or are not, spending money they raised in the name of Nepal earthquake.

As hundreds of thousands of people in the earthquake-affected districts of the Himalayan nation languish in their temporary shelters, philanthropic organisations spend possibly millions on administering funds they raised to help the helpless victims rebuild their lives.

The report claims sixteen of the world’s largest charity organisations have admitted that ‘they are spending up to a sixth of funds designated for Nepal on their overheads rather than in disaster-hit areas, when they are using local charities to do much of the work.’  It pointed out that some of these organisations have so far spent only a tiny portion of their earthquake-related funds which is ironical given the fact that villages after villages stand in urgent need of assistance.

The scattered lives of hundreds of thousands of people could literally change should the money be immediately invested in well-planned projects. But even that is a challenge for many organisations because they virtually do not have any links to Nepal; they are absent at the grassroots level. However, the Reuters report indicates, when they solicit donations they create an impression on the potential donors that they are actually on the ground. They just ‘regrant’ what they have collected to some local organisations and this, a charity watchdog says, is a major problem.

Ben Smilowitz, the founder and executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project, called the process of regranting donations an ‘abuse’.

“When an NGO is regranting … and they still take standard overhead as if they were delivering the services, then that is waste and abuse. It is misleading,” Mr Smilowitz told Reuters.

Merely weeks after the Nepal earthquake, media began drawing parallels with the way things went when it came to the rehabilitation of Haiti and Haitians after the Caribbean nation was destroyed by a similar destructive temblor in 2010.

More importantly, some of the organisations spend up to 20 percent of their collections on administration of the funds they have raised. American charity SOS Children’s Villages, for instance, spends 11 to 20 percent of its Nepal funds on ‘running programmes, fundraising, management and Nepal-specific communications’.

American Jewish World Service’s figure indicates that by September 9 the organisation had already spent about US $360,500 of the US $2.4 million it had raised for Nepal.

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