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katzonearth16 karma

Not where you would think.

Most people hear about foreign aid, especially disaster relief, and assume that it's about a rich country handing a big pot of money over to a poor country. If things don't get better as a result of all that money, then the assumption is that someone stole it. And when I say "most people", I'm including people who live in Haiti -- a lot of them think that's the process too.

It's not. Nearly all the money that gets spent in the wake of a war or a disaster, the vast majority of everything that's given as "foreign aid" is actually spent inside the donor countries. Money marked purely as humanitarian relief after the earthquake totaled $2.43 billion. At least 93 percent of that was spent either on UN agencies or foreign NGOs, or never left the donor states at all (for instance, the Pentagon getting paid by the State Department for a service). Another 6 percent, or $151 million, couldn't be traced at all. Just one percent went to the Haitian government.

When you start breaking out the other tranches of money, especially the reconstruction aid, the picture doesn't get that much brighter. One important note: Most of what's pledged (and talked about on TV and in the headlines) never gets spent at all, anywhere. Most famously, the U.S. didn't release any of the reconstruction money it promised Haiti in fiscal year 2010, and is still sitting on most of it.

katzonearth9 karma

People like entertainment. It's entertaining.

I fully understand why news editors are constantly moving from one thing to the next shiny thing. That's why they call it "news." But if we'd keep investing in long-term stories, sending people to dig deep into the topics they cover and keep reporting back, we'd keep finding news in the places we'd rather ignore.

Look, it's easier to cover how much boob Katy Perry is showing at the Grammys than it is to dig into the effects of US foreign policy overseas. You can do it with close to zero overhead, and you're sure to get a lot of attention. But if we make the investment, it will pay off. I remain convinced of this.

katzonearth7 karma

Freaking insane. Once I'd realized I wasn't dead, my whole focus boiled down to getting out of the house, getting a phone, and reporting. When I ran out (barefoot, in my underwear, by the way), I scampered up to the hotel next to our house. I started yelling for a phone. Right then, an American wandered out of the damaged main building talking on a BlackBerry. I convinced him, somehow, to hand it over. And I used that to call in the story. This was lightning fast: We had our alert up on AP at basically the same instant USGS reported the quake.

Our work that night was thanks to my fixer, translator and friend, Evens Sanon. He got me out of the house, calmed me down, and set about with me driving around the city and working. I warbiked with my MacBookPro open looking for internet signals while plugging at both of my POS Haitian cell phones. We'd walk around, I'd talk to people, and we'd try to call. I got through a couple times to the bureaus and gave more details, and the editors out there typed them out and put the stories out to the world.

The main idea in my head was to get to the US Embassy, and use the phone and internet there. But when we got there, they wouldn't let us in ...

katzonearth6 karma

Hey, I'm just here to talk about Rampart.

katzonearth6 karma

The opposite, actually. Sending bottles of water and perishable food just gums up the works. The best thing is to donate to organizations that know the people and the terrain, and are doing long-term work to create local institutions that will ultimately put aid groups out of business. And putting pressure on officials to support institutions on the ground.