Haiti — the vultures gather

Millions of dollars in aid are pouring into Haiti. It’s a great opportunity to rebuild a whole country.
But don’t bank on the cash going where it should. Forgive me if, as somebody who has visited Haiti, I have a somewhat cynical attitude about its future.
The scams have already started as bogus charities are appealing for funds to help Haiti via the Internet. They claim to represent everybody from Unicef to the Red Cross.
Make sure your donation goes to a genuine, truly dedicated organisation, such as Doctors Without Frontiers. More familiarly known as Médecins Sans Frontières or Médicos Sin Fronteras (www.msf.es), they do a tremendous job all over the world.
Unfortunately, I fear that 10 years from now there will be thousands of people still living in “temporary” emergency accommodation. It happened in Nicaragua, in Italy, in many other places hit by natural disasters.
But some will do very well out of the Haiti earthquake. Inevitably, millions of dollars will have evaporated as corrupt local politicians siphon off aid money.
And then there are the NGOs and the many foreign companies who will be awarded contracts for the rebuilding. They will be well compensated for their trouble.
I did not appreciate what juicy pickings there are in poverty-stricken countries until I visited the island known as the “slum of the Caribbean” some years back.
With a European aid worker, I travelled to the north of Haiti. We stopped at a godforsaken town, its dirt streets lined with hovels.
At a grocery store we knocked back soft drinks. Then I took a look at the merchandise on sale — and was stunned.
Apart from an astonishing range of imported foods, one wall was lined with champagne, about 16 different brands, from Moet & Chandon to Dom Perignon.
“Who buys this?” I asked my companion.
He shrugged.
“The aid workers in this area. And they don’t need to touch their salaries. That goes into their bank accounts back home and they live off their expenses.”
Haiti chérie…may god help you!

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