Disaster Accountability Project: One Year Report

Camp La Piste, two young people_0.jpg

Camp La Piste, Port au Prince

The Disaster Accountability Project has produced its one-year report surveying the transparency and accountability of aid organizations collecting funds in the name of Haiti. Thirty eight aid organizations who were requested to complete a survey did so; 164 declined to do so. See the full results in the attached pdf.

Here is the press release accompanying the release of the report:

January 5, 2011
updated January 7, 2011

Disaster Accountability Project Releases One Year Report On The Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Report finds near "Factual-Blackout" in relief/aid organizations' regular, detailed reporting: aggregates, anecdotes, and appeals to emotion dominate

Donors are "giving in the dark" and, despite some partnerships, groups cannot coordinate using annual or quarterly reports

No excuse for cholera epidemic and deteriorating conditions on the ground

The Disaster Accountability Project today issued a report entitled "One Year Followup Report on the Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake."

The report seeks to determine (1) Whether 196 organizations that solicited donations for Haiti disaster relief produced regular, factual reports on their activities; and, if so (2) How comprehensive, frequent, factual, and publicly accessible such reports were. (3) Determine how much money has been raised for Haiti relief, how much of that has been spent, and on what (i.e., healthcare, food, clean water, etc.).

View Report Here:

Of the 196 organizations surveyed:

Accountability: Lacking
• Only approximately 20%, or 38 groups, were responsive on time to our survey, and of those, a number provided incomplete answers.
• 26 groups report raising money specifically for clean water efforts and 21 groups report raising money for sanitation efforts.
• A total of $1.4 billion was raised by the 38 responding groups and $730 million or 52% was spent.
Transparency: Lacking
• 34 groups self-report as providing factual, public information on their websites. Our investigation found differently.
• We found only 8 of 195 groups were somewhat or more transparent on their own websites. Most organizations' websites were full of anecdotes, aggregates, and appeals to emotion.
• Over 1.8 million dollars in interest reportedly raised by just 5 of the survey respondents.
• 10 groups reported that they did not know how much interest they have raised and the rest (23 groups) did not respond either way, indicating that this figure is likely higher.

"The fact that nearly half of the donated dollars still sit in the bank accounts of relief/aid groups does not match the urgency of their own fundraising and marketing efforts and donors' intentions, nor does it covey the urgency of the situation on the ground. This may be a disincentive for future giving by individuals and other governments," said Ben Smilowitz, Executive Director, Disaster Accountability Project.

"Without detailed and regular information about activities on the ground, donors are "giving in the dark" and, despite some partnerships, groups cannot coordinate using annual or quarterly reports. Limited coordination is still frustrating relief delivery and effectiveness," said Smilowitz.

"There is no excuse for the cholera epidemic and deteriorating conditions on the ground given the amount of resources donated and available. With hundreds of millions in the bank and unspent, many groups continue to solicit additional donations," said Smilowitz.

Policy Implications

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. Hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations responded. Factual, regular, and honest information about relief groups' specific activities on the ground is critical for coordination between organizations and for the public making donations and deciding which groups should be allocated resources first - and where the money will be best put to use to save lives.


• It would an enlightening exercise to attempt to find out specific factual details about relief services delivered yesterday by the top-20 relief organizations operating in Haiti: how many people were provided with services, what services, and specifically where they were provided. If each organization was required to submit a daily or even weekly situation report with this information, coordination could dramatically improve and lives would be saved as a result.

• The aggregate figures released for the one-year anniversary may look impressive, yet they tell the public very little about an organization's true day-to-day activities on the ground. Often, aggregate figures/reports include partner or affiliate data and, often times, the same data is used by multiple organizations to advertise successes. One-year reports may look impressive, but they are often very misleading.

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 three 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