FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2010
Ben Smilowitz, 202-556-3023
Disaster Accountability Project Releases Report On The Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake
Shocking Lack of Transparency Underscores Need for New Transparency/Information Standards In Relief Operations
The Disaster Accountability Project today issued a report entitled “Report On The Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.” The report details the results of an intensive, 5-month investigation to determine whether those non-profit and non-governmental organizations that solicited donations for Haiti disaster relief produced situation reports on their activities, and if so, how comprehensive and publicly accessible such situation reports were.View Report Here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/34223667/Report-On-Transparency-of-Relief-Organizations-Responding-to-the-2010-Haiti-Earthquake
In its investigation, The Disaster Accountability Project found that of the 197 organizations identified as soliciting money for their activities in Haiti following the earthquake:
• Only 6 had publicly available, regularly updated, factual situation reports detailing their activities.
• The vast majority, 128, did not have factual situation reports available on their websites, relying instead upon anecdotal descriptions of activities or emotional appeals.
• Only approximately ten percent, 21, were responsive to a survey requesting more information, and of those, a number provided incomplete answers.
“It is infuriating that so many groups continue to violate the public trust with so much cash-on-hand donated to alleviate suffering on the ground. Shouldn’t we expect more from groups that are raising hundreds of millions of dollars from a public asked to generously donate, immediately after the earthquake?” said Ben Smilowitz, Executive Director, Disaster Accountability Project.
“After the quake, the public was eager to donate, but it had to know which groups already had the greatest capacity to deliver, which groups were already in Haiti, and which were planning trips for six months later. Looking back over the last six months, the lack of transparency by relief groups has caused much of the coordination problems that continue to plague the response,” said Smilowitz.
The Disaster Accountability Project’s findings are divided into two categories in the report:
1) how responsive the were organizations to requests for more information and,
2) how accessible and detailed were their situation reports.
Information is critical. After a disaster occurs, relief groups need large amounts of cash on hand to mobilize appropriate amounts of personnel and supplies to reach the ground and save lives within a critical window of opportunity. After the Haiti earthquake, survivors buried in the rubble could only be rescued in the first few days. After this window, the focus of the operation shifted from search-and-rescue to one of recovery. Health needs had to be quickly addressed to save lives.
After the Haiti earthquake, the public was asked to donate and it did, generously. CNN has reported that as of July 2010, $1.3 billion USD was donated to hundreds, if not thousands, of relief organizations. Though many organizations were actively soliciting donations, few were sharing regular, factual details of their work: how many people were served? where? how? Not only did this hinder coordination between organizations (as has been widely reported) but it also prevented donors from focusing donations on groups that had the greatest capacity to deliver.
• Even though many groups have only spent one-third to one-half of the money they’ve raised, reporting for most groups is actually less frequent now than when the public was paying more attention in the immediate aftermath of the quake.
• Some groups claim to use Twitter to provide details about their activities on the ground. If these claims are true, we’re not sure how 140 characters can relay factual details of a relief operation.
• Many groups claim to provide details of their activities on their blogs. However, many organizations’ blogs are full of appeals to emotion, pictures of children, and purely anecdotal accounts about touching moments during a particular delivery of relief.
• It would an enlightening exercise to attempt to find out how much time would it take to find out where relief services were delivered yesterday by all relief organizations operating in Haiti: how many people were provided with services, and what services they were provided. If each organization was required to submit a daily situation report with this information, the information would be pretty easy to access.
• Even the largest groups that have raised the most (hundreds of millions of dollars) after the Haiti earthquake are culpable for these failures in transparency. Many use large, 3-month or 6-month aggregate (impressive) numbers to demonstrate the impact of their work yet they continue to fail to reveal the numbers representing the impact of their daily activities, on a daily basis.
The Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving disaster management systems through policy research and advocacy, promoting transparency and engaging citizens to become more involved in preparedness and relief, and helping to ensure that people know what is happening on the ground during a disaster.
Founded in 2007 in reaction to the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, the Disaster Accountability Project has demonstrated that dedicated and informed oversight can help ensure that government agencies and nonprofit organizations live up to their life-saving obligations before, during, and after disasters.
In two years, the Disaster Accountability Project has become the leading, independent nonprofit providing citizen oversight to the U.S. disaster management system. In August 2008, the Disaster Accountability Project received the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship, awarded to social entrepreneurs tackling critical, high-impact social issues.
A toll-free hotline (866-9-TIP-DAP) is available as a public service for disaster survivors, workers and volunteers to report critical gaps in disaster prevention, response, relief, and recovery services or planning.
The Disaster Accountability Project’s website is http://www.DisasterAccountability.org.
Disaster Accountability Project is a 2008 Echoing Green Fellowship Organization.
For more information: http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows/ben-smilowitz