Seven-year-old raises $200,000 for Haiti victims

Seven-year-old Charlie Simpson from Fulham, west London had hoped to raise just £500 for UNICEF's earthquake appeal by cycling eight kilometers (five miles) around a local park, and ended up raising almost $200,000.

"My name is Charlie Simpson. I want to do a sponsored bike ride for Haiti because there was a big earthquake and loads of people have lost their lives," said Simpson on his JustGiving page, a fundraising site which launched his efforts.

And with that simple call, messages of support flooded the site. "Such a big heart for a young boy, you're a little star!" wrote one supporter. "Well done Charlie. A real celebrity," said another.

David Bull, UNICEF UK executive director described Simpson's efforts as "very bold and innovative. … It shows he connects with and not only understands what children his own age must be going through in Haiti. … "The little seed -- his idea -- that he has planted has grown rapidly and his is a place well deserved in the humanitarian world.”


What donations not to send as humanitarian relief

As planes full of food and medical supplies sit at the airport in Haiti while hundreds of thousands of people are dehydrated, hungry and in dire need of medical aid, the challenges of helping others is made obvious to the world. The outpouring of global generosity is always impressive in emergency situations; yet, the inability to actually get the aid to the people who need it the most is a painful reality. Sadly, the intent to help others isn’t always enough. A few tips for individual donors:

1. Don’t send clothes or shoes, send money.
2. Don’t send baby formula, send money. “Baby formula,” Alanna Shaikh, an international relief and development expert working in Tajikistan writes, “does nothing for babies in the middle of a disaster and can even be fatal.”
3. Don’t send blankets, send money. Blankets require getting them to port, clearing them through customs, distributing them and deciding who gets them — when other organizations on the ground may have plenty of blankets already.
4. Even George Bush gets it. Referring to relief efforts in Haiti, he says: “I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash.”
5. Water is heavy and bulky, takes up precious cargo space and requires distribution. Better to back an organization working to get emergency water systems up and running, experts say.

Every aid worker has a favorite story about useless donations. Raymond Offenheiser, the president of Oxfam America, recalled being in Bangladesh after a cyclone had killed 200,000 people and watching local women trying to make sense out of French TV dinners — “complete with croissant,” he said — that required a microwave.

Someone else has a story about the bewilderment of survivors of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras upon opening a box of donated high-heeled shoes, while another tells of the arrival in Congo of boxes of used toothbrushes, expired over-the-counter drugs and broken bicycles.

“There isn’t always a lot of thought that goes into these gifts,” Mr. Offenheiser said. “The impulse is just to do something, anything.”


Western Corruption within the corrupt Afghanistan War

The Afghanistan war is a breeding ground for corruption, and McClatchy Newspapers reports that it’s not just the corrupt Afghan government that’s feeding at the trough. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says about three-quarters of its active corruption investigations involved Westerners.

The Associated Press reports: The U.S. agency overseeing the multibillion dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort is investigating 38 criminal cases ranging from contract fraud to theft – most involving non-Afghans, officials said…Just 10 of the criminal cases under the microscope involve Afghans only, while the rest involve U.S. and other foreigners, according to Raymond DiNunzio, the agency’s assistant inspector general for inspections.

U.S. and allied-nation official and private corruption helped set the stage for the venality of the Kabul government: After 9/11, American and western aid actually perpetrated this kind of corruption. Because this kind of subcontracting that went on, the wastage of aid, the fact that there was this concentration on the security sector rather than on winning hearts and minds in the social sector, all this created a climate of corruption which people in the Afghan govt. immediately latched onto and were the beneficiaries of. And they then perpetuated their own corruption. So you can’t just blame the corruption in Pakistan or Afghanistan on local people and local issues.


Bill Clinton’s pledge for Haiti

Three million people -- almost a third of Haiti's population-- need aid, making this one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. What Haiti needs most now is money for water, food, shelter and basic medical supplies to bring immediate relief to those who are homeless, hungry and hurt.

The entire United Nations system is working hard to meet these needs and to regroup on the ground in Haiti after the collapse of our headquarters building and the loss of many of our colleagues. The U.S. government has pledged its full support to the recovery effort, as have the governments of many other nations.

Nongovernmental organizations and ordinary citizens have offered to help. Even small contributions will make a big difference in the aftermath of such destruction.

But after the emergency passes, the work of recovery and reconstruction will remain.

Last June, I accepted the role of U.N. special envoy for Haiti to help implement Haiti's long-term development plan by increasing foreign government assistance and private investment and by coordinating and increasing the contributions of nongovernmental groups involving more members of the Haitian Diaspora. This work helps create more jobs, better education, better health care, less deforestation and more clean energy for a nation in desperate need.

As we clear the rubble, we will create better tomorrows by building Haiti back better: with stronger buildings, better schools and health care; with more manufacturing and less deforestation; with more sustainable agriculture and clean energy.

[Bill Clinton, U.N. special envoy for Haiti, writing in Washington Post]


Charity gap in helping the needy

A study commissioned by Google.org and conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University claims that less than a third of U.S. tax-deductible donations target those in need.

The premise appears to be that the philanthropic expression of concern for the "needy" is measured by dollars allocated to immediate services.

But the charitable dollar that is allocated to education but not to scholarships is not therefore a dollar to the needy. A dollar allocated to an art museum is not charity because it is not allocated to art lessons for the poor. A dollar allocated to global cultural understanding is not adequate because it is not allocated to existing relief needs like Darfur.

The conclusion is that, while all giving is to be admired, American philanthropy is not always that well-positioned to make a real difference on the societal commons.


Record US aid is spent on war

Just before Christmas, President Obama signed into law one of the U.S.’s biggest aid pledges of the year. It was bound not for Africa or any of the many struggling countries on the World Bank's list.

It was a 10-year deal for $US2.77 billion to go to Israel in 2010, and a total of $US30 billion over the next decade, mainly to be spent on US military hardware. Israel is bound by the agreement to use 75 per cent of the aid to buy military devices made in the US.

For many years Israel has been the largest recipient of the US foreign-aid budget, followed by Egypt ($US1.75 billion) which also receives most of its assistance in tied military aid.

The big increase is in assistance to Pakistan, which was recently given an additional $US1.5 billion a year for the next five years, tripling its aid. (--Even though officials at the US embassy in Islamabad have alleged that Pakistan has diverted elsewhere 70 per cent of the $US9 billion in military assistance paid since 2001.)

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