Donor governments, individuals and corporations have responded swiftly and generously to the Haiti earthquake, but funding experts are concerned donors will pour resources into emergency relief at the expense of recovery.
So far donors have funded 35 percent of the UN’s US$562-million flash appeal, although $952 million has been pledged. But the early recovery sector of the appeal still has no contributions.
Too often donors channel their contributions to immediate relief operations without due consideration to medium- and long-term recovery and rehabilitation, Ben Ramalingam, head of research and development at humanitarian learning and accountability network, ALNAP, told IRIN.
Recovery efforts such as building medium-term shelters and re-establishing people’s livelihoods must start during the relief phase, Ramalingam said.
Over the longer term, aid agencies and governments must aim to “build back better”, said Brendan Gormley, head of the UK NGO fundraising network, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). This involves revising building codes and improving building standards, requiring a lot of resources over a long time, he said.
Head of external relations at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York, Shoko Arakaki, reflected the views of most people IRIN spoke to when she said existing financing mechanisms failed to meet such needs.
“Recovery-wise, we need much improvement...there are not the coordination systems in place to be able to respond on an effective, timely basis,” she said.
“Everyone knows this and everyone talks about it, but there is no consensus to change the system.”
But donors increasingly debate how to improve recovery funding mechanisms after crises, said the UN’s Robert Smith, head of the consolidated appeals section in OCHA.
The revised UN flash appeal for Haiti, due out in one month, is likely to focus more heavily on recovery funds, he said. Meanwhile the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have each committed $100 million in grants for both the emergency and reconstruction phases, and the IMF is working towards external debt relief for Haiti.
In addition, DEC trustees are to meet soon to decide whether the current funding period for using DEC funds – roughly a third within the first six months, the rest within two years – should be extended to a post-earthquake scenario, where rebuilding can take years, according to Gormley.
“Leaving communities more secure and more able to cope with future shocks is the guidance we give,” he said. "But it is up to members to decide how they channel their funds.”
Relief funding “improved”
Emergency relief fundraising for Haiti is going relatively well so far. “In each crisis we have seen improvements,” Arakaki told IRIN. “Relief funding is much improved since the 2004 tsunami and 2005 Pakistan earthquake.”
Within three days of the Haiti quake, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had allocated $25 million, CERF secretariat head Steve O’Malley told IRIN.
Private donors and individuals reportedly contributed 18 percent of the overall committed funds.
But there is no room for complacency. “Donors now need to be fast to convert their pledges to specific commitments to the organizations that have come together in the flash appeal,” said Smith.
“Agencies are spending as though money is no object but they don’t have deep pockets of reserves, and it will become an [issue] soon.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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