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Trust must be earned: Perceptions of aid in Haiti - A reality check on post-quake accountability to affected people, April 2022 [EN/HT]

Ground Truth Solutions
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Executive summary

Haitians are no strangers to foreign aid. Billions have been poured into the so-called Republic of NGOs, which at any given time hosts thousands of projects with aspirations ranging from improving sanitation to transforming livelihoods. The earthquake that ravaged Port-au-Prince in 2010 highlighted the chaos and sometimes the absurdity of the international aid machine. For years, the capital was overwhelmed with shipments of supplies, convoys of Landcruisers, media, celebrities, and planeloads of people wanting to help. There have been claims of corruption, poor coordination, and exploitation. Many years on, people are still asking where the money has gone. Haiti has inspired global debate on humanitarian reform, formalised in the Grand Bargain commitments, but clear improvements remain elusive.

When the August 2021 earthquake in the nation’s south sparked a new surge of international aid, Ground Truth Solutions decided to ask whether Haiti’s citizens feel humanitarian organisations are meeting community expectations, and where they are falling short.

We surveyed 1251 people affected by the earthquake to compare their expectations of humanitarian workers and programmes with their experiences of aid in reality. We then talked to 86 people in qualitative, long-form interviews and focus group discussions to discover where and why gaps between expectations and reality exist, and how they can be resolved.

This is what people told us:

  • Aid falls short of expectations. People consider aid useful for short-term needs, but it does not address priorities. They see it as unfair and find little dignity in accessing it.

  • Transparent information about aid is lacking. This marginalises crisis-affected populations in decision-making. People want to understand how aid works, but they do not – and they are excluded from decision-making processes – so they do not trust aid providers.

  • Aid is disempowering. Haitians expect to participate throughout aid planning and implementation. Instead, they feel ostracised by aid providers and relegated to passive roles as receivers. This leaves people feeling unable to influence anything.

  • Aid does not help people achieve their long-term goals. People find humanitarian aid useful in the immediate aftermath of acute disaster, but it goes no further. They feel sustainability can be achieved by consulting affected populations on their longer-term needs and involving Haitian civil society in more decisions.

  • Collaboration with actors who communities trust is key to making aid accountable. People find it important that aid is distributed by actors they trust to provide it fairly and transparently.

We discussed our findings with representatives from the government, humanitarian sectors, NGOs and organisations working with persons with disabilities, and accountability to affected people focal points, and encouraged them to develop recommendations and commitments to improve trust across the response. Priority recommendations include the following:

  • Raise awareness about targeting and selection criteria, including in remote areas;

  • Adapt needs assessments to local contexts, including gender- and age-sensitivity;

  • Ensure secure aid distributions by: Carefully choosing the time of day, anticipating the number of people, providing training on crowd-control measures, and involving a range of local leaders who represent diverse groups in distributions.

  • Harmonise existing independent, anonymous, and confidential complaint mechanisms;

  • Increase awareness of existing complaints and feedback mechanisms, and inform communities about the processing of their complaint and any responsive action taken;

  • Improve community organisation involvement, including organisations for persons with disabilities (OPDs) and women’s organisations, to increase access to aid for marginalised groups.

Community trust has been eroded for many years. Implementing these recommendations can thus only go so far to build back trust. We hope they can be an important step in a broader process.

Ground Truth Solutions: added project to body as per case 50068