Rx for Limitless, International Emergency Support
To compound a prescription for limitless, international emergency support, we need only
extrapolate from an American anthropologist’s recent study of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake.
There can be no doubt that more natural disasters await us—whether earthquake or
tsunami, avalanche or hurricane, flood or drought. Nor can there be doubt that the resources of
international humanitarian aid will respond. Now the 8th largest global economy, international
aid organizations employ 18 million workers with a $1.1 trillion budget and an annual growth
rate of 6 percent.
Though holding his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Florida, Dr. Timothy
Schwartz’s study of this great earthquake rests upon other sturdy and unique credentials of
personal experience. Arriving in Haiti in 1992 as a graduate student, Dr. Schwartz has done
numerous surveys for dozens of NGO’s; has lived effectively in Haiti for nearly 25 years; has
fathered or adopted six island children; and is fluent in Creole, English, and French. To his study
of Haiti’s earthquake, The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle, I am indebted for most of the
facts and figures cited here.
If compared to the State of Maryland’s area, population, and income, Haiti’s area is about
10 percent smaller; its population twice as great; and a Haitian’s personal per capita income of
about $897 is roughly 1.4 percent of the Marylander’s $63,932.
The first component of our prescription for limitless international, emergency support
requires us to exaggerate the extent of death and damage. One day after the earthquake, Haiti’s
president estimated a death toll of 30,000 to 50,000. Three weeks later, it was raised to 270,000
deaths. Dr. Schwartz’s estimate was from 46,000 to 84,000. Thus, at the highest range, his was less than 1/3 of the official estimate. Similar contrasts came in estimates of rubble. The Haitian
government reported that 70 to 80 percent of the capital of Port-au-Prince had been destroyed.
That estimate, as well as the one from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, proved to have
overstated by nine times the debris.
A second component is to encourage all media to increase viewership/readership by
sensationalizing disorder and mayhem. On January 12, 2010, the London Evening Standard
claimed that two million children were feared orphaned. The actual number: fewer than 1,000
and perhaps not even 100. Yet the proliferation of rumors masked as reports had the desired
effect of raising news-viewing among Americans by 300 percent at the height of the crisis.
Such exaggeration, however wild, complemented repeated and ever higher appeals. The
International Red Cross’ call for $10 million was raised to $103 million in January and ultimately
yielded $1.2 billion. Save the Children asked for $9.8 million and finished the year with $87
million. World Vision sought $3.8 million and got $191 million. For Haiti, the receipts for that
year were stupefying. Of the $19 billion of global emergency aid for all of 2010, Haiti itself
received 69 percent ($13.1 billion).
The third essential component is to excuse or ignore all contravening, embarrassing facts.
Thus, there was no mention that the Hotel Christopher, which housed U.N. staff, was located
over an active seismic fault or that its owner/landlord had been convicted in the U.S. for bilking
insurance companies through fake medical claims. Similarly, the shabby construction that led to
the collapse of the Hotel Montana was never examined. Nor did any international team explain
why private, expensive homes nearby neither collapsed nor revealed any significant damage.
Owners of those homes—the elite of Haiti and their friends—were aware that Haiti had no building codes. Therefore, they hired competent engineers and contractors and used only
materials and methods that could withstand an earthquake’s tremors.
The predictable fourth component is to exaggerate reports of violence and disorder as a
deterrent to effective investigation and factual reporting. On January 14, 2010, CBS headlined
that gangs ruled Haiti’s streets and London’s Telegraph reported gunshots across the capital. In
Time magazine Shaul Schwarz’s report of bodies being stacked as sandbags, as if preparing
barriers against attacks, ignored the reality that ordinary Haitians were displaying the bodies in
the hope that rescue forces would come and haul them away before they rotted.
The fifth and final component to assure limitless international support is to keep up
deception. If accountability ever were introduced:
- Neither NGOs nor the media could evade or hide;
- Neither governors nor governments could confuse citizens, misuse funds, and betray trust
with impunity, and those truly in need would receive help from the funds and materials
that were sent and meant for them.
Long ago the British historian John Dalberg-Acton remarked, “power tends to corrupt
and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
From The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle, I conclude that international aid tends
to corrupt but non-accountable, limitless international emergency support (LIES) corrupts absolutely. Accountability alone will stop these LIES and reveal the corruption, cabals, and collusion that divert international aid from faithful delivery to those in need.