Haiti rebuilding funds aren't going to grassroots groups

The Miami HeraldApril 7, 2011 

It took the Valmé family 15 years and $500,000 from donations and recycling bottles to build a two-story yellow school building for youngsters in this rural outpost. But before the doors opened, the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake destroyed the school.

“We were fighting for years to have that school. To see it collapse was sad,’’ said Dr. Gerald Valmé, 59, a New York physician whose family-run foundation now educates and feeds the 460 students inside a zinc-covered wooden structure with plastic tarps for walls.

“It seems that it’s only the people who have the connections who have the access to the funds. Those of us doing good work, we have no access,’’ Valmé said. “They have forgotten us. They don’t identify us. They don’t know us.’’

Almost nine months after a battered Haiti approved a U.S.-backed blueprint for its recovery, small nongovernmental and grassroots community organizations essential to the country’s long-term reconstruction are being left behind in the nearly $2 billion in reconstruction projects that have been approved.

As a commission charged with disbursing billions in reconstruction funds meets in Haiti on Thursday and Friday, the Valmé family and other community-based organizations will be watching closely to see how much of that money tickles down to them.

Located in rural towns such as this one near the city of Léogane, they have little access to the $5.5 billion pledged, including $344 million in contributions to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. The trust fund is intended to be the largest source of unprogrammed funding.

“The frustrations are understandable,’’ said Gabriel Verret, executive director of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. “It is hard to grasp that the IHRC is not the one blocking their access. The commission determines the strategy, approves or disapproves projects, but it does not control donor resources.’’

In fact, the bulk of foreign assistance from countries such as the United States and Canada are still directed to large nongovernmental organizations.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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