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U.N. Seeking $190 Million For Haiti Earthquake Relief. Aid Groups Urge Using It More Wisely Than 2010

 Volunteers in Port Salut, Haiti, deliver donated food to victims of the August 14 earthquake.
Jose A. Iglesias
Miami Herald
Volunteers in Port Salut, Haiti, deliver donated food to victims of the August 14 earthquake.

As the U.N. launches an appeal for Haiti earthquake relief, nonprofits like Global Empowerment Mission in Doral are promoting a new, more direct aid model.

The U.N. has announced a $190 million appeal to help victims of this month's powerful earthquake in southwest Haiti — and aid organizers in South Florida are urging the institution to use that money more wisely than billions like it were spent a decade ago.

The U.N. is asking the international community to pledge $187.3 million for relief and recovery after the Aug. 14 earthquake, which killed more than 2,200 people on Haiti’s southwest peninsula, left 12,000 injured and destroyed 130,000 homes.

Because many of the affected communities are in remote areas, survivors are still in dire need of shelter, water, food and medical help.

As a result, South Florida nonprofits like Global Empowerment Mission (GEM) in Doral say it’s critical international aid gets delivered more efficiently and effectively than it was after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, when more than $10 billion in global assistance did relatively little to get the impoverished Caribbean country back on its feet.

“There was a giant pot of money collected for the 2010 earthquake that was split among some 20,000 different organizations," said Michael Capponi, GEM's president.

"That's 20,000 groups flying back and forth, staying in hotels, renting cars. Imagine all those costs, right?"

Today, groups like Capponi’s are promoting a model that slashes that overhead and gets aid more directly to Haitians.

This week the first of three Global Empowerment Mission ships, in partnership with the BStrong disaster relief foundation in New York, is leaving the Miami River with a total of more than $5 million in donated tents, water, food and other supplies.

It will arrive at Haiti’s southwest port of Miragoâne, then be distributed under the direction of the local Roman Catholic archdiocese there via an agreement with the Haitian government.

“That’s how we’re kind of completely rewriting the system," said Capponi.

"This comes into a safe port and then it gets spread amongst all the different Haitian [community] groups that know how to deliver this [in Haiti] much better than outside organizations.”

Criminal gangs had been blocking delivery of relief aid on Haiti’s roads — but this week they announced a “truce” to let it pass for now.

Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.