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Group seeks to ensure money raised for Haiti goes to island

AFTERMATH: Houses lay in ruins after the passing of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti

AT LEAST one humanitarian group is seeking to assure funds donated to Haiti will go directly to assisting with the Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.

This comes in the face of allegations that monies collected by some relief agencies were not trickling down to the poor in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Emergency disaster coordinator for the Salvation Army in the Caribbean, Major Vilo Exantus, said a lot of Jamaicans have been making contributions to the organisation in response to the call to help Haiti following the recent destruction from the Category Four hurricane.

This contribution, he said, also includes money which was lodged to the organisation's Scotiabank account.

He acknowledged that people are sometimes wary of giving to a cause, unsure if their donations will go to its intended purpose; however, he gave assurance of the charity organisation's credibility.

"I know that whatever they entrust to the Salvation Army, it will reach the people. After the earthquake, we did a lot of work in Haiti that has not yet been told," said Major Exantus, who has served as the commander for the Salvation Army in Haiti in the past.

"People want to know a trustworthy organisation that they can give to; and based on our reporting system, it will be given."


He said that apart from the Salvation Army, other agencies and humanitarian groups such as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Food For The Poor and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency have been helping with the recovery efforts in Haiti.

Both the American Red Cross and the Clinton Foundation have been scrutinised for their perceived mismanagement of humanitarian funds following the 2010 earthquake, which was one of the worst natural disasters to hit Haiti.

According to investigations by the National Public Radio and ProPublica, the American Red Cross only built six houses in Haiti after collecting US$500 million in relief money, following the devastating earthquake. Haitians have also questioned the nature of the assistance given by the United Nations special envoy to Haiti and former United States president Bill Clinton's Clinton Foundation, which collected more than US$30 million for Haiti relief projects. Those agencies have since responded to the concerns raised.

Major Exantus, who was born in Haiti, said now with another major natural disaster hitting the country in the space of six years, the needs are great. He urged persons to give whatever they can to the cause, utilising agencies that have a proven, credible track record of carrying out its mandate.

He said apart from the need for food and hygiene kits, a lot of focus will have to be placed on building shelters for those who lost their houses. The three shelters operated by the Salvation Army in Haiti have been housing hundreds of residents following the passage of Hurricane Matthew, which killed an estimated 1,000 Haitians and much more have lost their homes, crops and livestock. Thousands are now without a roof over their heads.

"The next step is to look at helping those people to rebuild their houses," he said.

Haiti's consulate in Jamaica, Cynthia Desulme, agrees that improving the infrastructure in the country should be one of the more lasting solutions to lifting the living standards for Haitians.

"I am very much appreciative of the response that even the Jamaican Government is giving and private individuals and companies, but at the [same] time, it is not going to fix the situation. This is just a quick fix by providing food and so forth. But the main thing is that these people need proper housing. Of course, the infrastructure in Haiti is nothing compared to Jamaica," she told the Sunday Gleaner.

She noted that access to drinking water and proper sanitation is still an issue for many Haitians.

"There are still some tent settlements in Haiti after the earthquakes, and after six years, they are still there," she said.

"I feel unless the international community put a concentrated effort to put in all of these infrastructures, they cannot really uplift the standard of these poor people," she said.

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