A fascinating new report released today by Refugees International on the Haiti aid effort is a striking indictment of the current efforts so far, particularly on the part of the United Nations. As FP’s Turtle Bay reported a few weeks back, the “cluster” approach to tackling aid has been a total flop, but the U.N.’s admission. Now, as more details are emerging, this rather depressing excerpt sums it up:
By all accounts, the leadership of the humanitarian country team is ineffectual. Following the earthquake, it took three weeks for the Humanitarian Coordinator to call a meeting with aid organizations. During his visit to Haiti, John Holmes, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, chastised humanitarian colleagues by pointing out that “several clusters ha[d] yet to establish a concise overview of needs and develop coherent response plans, strategies and gap analyses.” It required his personal intervention to shorten the time frame for the universal distribution of plastic sheeting from May 1st to April 1st. The rainy season is imminent, with thousands of Haitians sleeping outside, lacking even the minimal shelter that plastic sheeting provides.
Coordination is not an easy job, but it’s not clear to me who first said “hey, let’s put the world’s most intransigent bureaucracy in charge of emergencies”. Rapid response is not the UN’s comparative advantage.