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Aid idea for Haiti with bang for buck

I am about to make another plea for money for Haiti and an organization providing relief there, Partners in Health, founded by former Brooksville resident Paul Farmer.

A local group of supporters (yes, I'm one of them) has scheduled two fundraisers for PIH: at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Brooksville Regional Hospital ($25) and at 4 p.m. March 2 at Coney Island Drive Inn in Brooksville ($10). Call (352) 796-3519 for tickets.

I know that anyone thinking about attending will ask the question of the moment when it comes to Haiti: Why give to a country that has received so much and done so little with it?

So let's look at some reasons why aid hasn't helped more in the past.

United States law requires our government assistance to also assist our political and business interests, no matter what the consequences to the so-called beneficiary.

Almost all of the rice donated to Haiti by the United States in the past 30 years, for example, has come from heavily subsidized U.S. farmers. They prospered, while Haiti's rice farmers, unable to compete, went out of business. And the U.S. millions spent feeding Haitians only made them more dependent on our help.

Secondly, most of the aid to Haiti has been funneled into large charities that work around the government, not with it. If you've read recent reports that the Haitian government has been powerless to help its own people, well, this is one reason: For much of the country's history, it hasn't been given a chance.

So why give, and to whom?

Well, give because the needs of Haitians are still overwhelming. And give to PIH.

This is not to dismiss other local efforts to help Haiti or the work of organizations such as the American Red Cross, which is especially good at providing emergency relief.

But I would argue, and a lot of international aid experts would back me up, that $1 donated to PIH will do more to advance relief and rebuilding in Haiti than the same amount donated anywhere else.

Former President Bill Clinton, now United Nations special envoy to Haiti, said PIH's work in Haiti would be a model for helping the nation recover from the earthquake; the Web site Charity Navigator, which ranks the efficiency of aid groups, has consistently given PIH its highest ranking.

Its only responsibility in Haiti is to help Haitians, and Haitians make up all but a handful of the organization's 4,000 employees in the country, including 100 doctors.

They are working not only to treat injuries and illness, but all of the conditions that cause disease and interfere with recovery, including feeding people through a new PIH program to grow rice — in Haiti, of course, and by Haitians.

Its 12 hospitals and clinics are all operated with the Haitian Ministry of Health. Your money, if you donate to PIH, will not go to fund a parallel bureaucracy, which is how some charities operate there, but to a partner that helps shore up the government.

Add to this that Farmer is famous for working 18-hour days. Most high-level PIH staffers do, too. And when I visited (admittedly briefly and several years ago), one of them told me he accomplished more in a day with Farmer than he did in months with a large charity for which he previously worked.

So, yes, you are right to worry that money given to Haiti will be wasted. But not if you give to PIH.

Aid idea for Haiti with bang for buck 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 6:53pm]

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