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Private aid is more effective than government

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | MARCH 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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Four days ago, the globe celebrated World Water Day 2012, and international governmental agencies slapped each other on their respective backs with congratulatory clinks of champagne glasses echoing in the background of another fantastic display of dim-witted, groupthink mentality.

Good job guys, you are killing it, couldn't be happier for you.

But in the sober light of day, while glancing at the bullet-point accomplishments in USAID's bloated press release, it becomes painfully clear — the United States is barely scratching the surface in any humanitarian fight.

And with this realization comes another — it isn't the governmental agencies that are most effective in humanitarian aid, but the privately run, nonprofit groups that are doing the most to help the less fortunate abroad.

Take Haiti. Two years after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake wiped-out an estimated 316,000 people, out of the $4.5 billion pledged by countries, less than half has been distributed.

A reason for the apathy you might ask? Well, of course — the best reason a government can find to keep money to itself: the current conflict between ex-members of Haiti's armed forces and the current Haitian President Michel Martelly.

Or in another word, politics.

The aftermath of Haiti's former Prime Minister Garry Conille, who resigned in February after just four months in office, is a premium example of the way Haiti's politics has deterred foreign investment.

As Time reported, "Thanks to the acrimony between the president and Parliament, Haiti went without a prime minister — who runs the government and therefore oversees disbursement of earthquake-recovery funds — for more than six months after Martelly was sworn in last May."

The reason, as Time cited, that investors were nervous about investing in Haiti's government and recovery process.

The beautiful thing about private foundations is that they are not tied by the same red tape as governmental agencies. They can continually give money to aid in reconstruction and redevelopment of any part of the globe they see fit.

Private groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which alone has given nearly $20 billion to global health and development since its inception. They get the money to the right people who do the work no matter what the latest political trends.

But it's not just about how much money has been or can be disbursed. Sometimes, money needs to be disbursed over time in order to maintain a certain level of aid over a certain amount of time. It's also about how many people can be organized to help.

In 2010, volunteers organized by the U.S. flocked to Haiti, showing support in any way possible. Today, not even government entities can get themselves organized, though the Haiti crisis is far from over.

After a four-day trip to Haiti, on March 24, Helen Clark of the U.N. Development Program urged the Haitian government to revive an international panel originally created to coordinate the reconstruction and rebuilding of the impoverished country. The panel, that included former President Bill Clinton, was dissolved in October after lawmakers could not come to a consensus over renewal of their charter.

To me, that would be an obvious question to answer: Should we continue helping people? Yes. OK, let's move on.

In complete contrast to the disorganization of government, private, nonprofit organizations continue to sprout from the sands of struggle to help the Haitian people.

One such organization, called the Community Health Initiative, has been fighting against red-tape and disease alike to continue its mission to provide safety and aid to Haiti. In an emotional and determined press release sent earlier this year, the group happily announced it was finally established as an independent nonprofit organization solely devoted to providing aid to Haiti.

So far in 2012, the group's mobile clinics, including many students from the chapter at UI, have seen more than 2,000 patients and distributed more than $300,000 worth of medicine. Alone.

So, if you want to play a game of regime change, keep telling yourself that governments are the answer to international humanitarian crises. But if you want results, look to the nonprofits such as the Community Health Initiative to get real things done.


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