According to a survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation, it has been revealed that 16 of the world’s largest disaster relief charities are spending up to a sixth of funds designated for Nepal on their overheads rather than on disaster-hit areas, while they are using local charities to do much of the work.
The NGOs surveyed were agencies actively seeking Nepal funds through PayPal’s charitable donations web page, one of a host of websites including Facebook, which attract cash for charities.
Ben Smilowitz, founder and executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project, a US-based charity watchdog, said, “The response is not helped by international humanitarian charities inflating the cost of doing business when they are not actually doing the work on the ground.”
Nepal earthquake, which is regarded as the worst earthquake, claimed more than 9000 lives in April this year.
The US-based charity Americares, which distributes medicines and supplies to Nepal-based groups, said 17 per cent of its funds go on overheads.
However, the charity’s president and CEO Michael Nyenhuis said its overheads were proportionate to its activities and he did not believe 17 per cent was a high number.
Nyenhuis said the charity had provided about $21 million worth of medicines and medical supplies to distribute in Nepal.
The survey also revealed that some NGOs had only spent a fraction of the amount raised in the first three months after the quake.
Smilowitz said some international NGOs appear to have operations on the ground when, in fact, they are only donating money to local groups, a process known as regranting.
Nepal’s government, which coordinates and approves NGO activity, spent nothing on reconstruction in the first four months after the quake, the United Nations has said.
A poll by NGO Ground Truth Solutions found 51 per cent of people affected by the quake felt their main problems were being addressed but only 5 per cent said their needs were being met completely.
SOS Children’s Villages, a US-based charity, said 11 to 20 percent of its Nepal funds went on running programmes, fundraising, management and Nepal-specific communications.
Mercy Corps said it spent 13 per cent of its Nepal funds on related overheads. Other had a similar story.
Responding to the survey, PayPal’s director of social innovation Sean Milliken said:
“We make it clear that every organisation uses their donations differently and encourage them to read the (NGO’s) mission statement or visit their website to understand how their gift will be used.”