The African aid racket revisited

Editors note:  I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to post that I’ve missed lately due to internet problems that have been plaguing me ever since that big Eastern storm a couple of weeks ago, so, sorry, if you have sent me story ideas and you haven’t seen them posted.   Please know that I love to get tips from readers who always find such interesting topics and make my work easier.   Here is one:

American Renaissance has a good book review  by Jon Harrison Sims (Shaking hands with the devil) of a book published in 2010 by Linda Polman, a Dutch journalist, about the humanitarian aid racket in mostly Africa and Asia. (Hat tip: Tom)  There is suffering and poverty, but are the NGO’s and government agencies padding their own pockets while fostering corruption worldwide?   Does that sound familiar?

Before I give you a bit of Sims’ review, I was reminded of the novel I read early this summer thanks also to a tip from a reader.  I read Paul Theroux’s “The Lower River,” truly one of the darkest novels I’ve ever read.   In it the main character returns to Africa late in life with a hankering to return to the village where he had, as a young man, been a happy Peace Corps volunteer.  What he finds is a nightmare after decades of corruption mostly by, you guessed it, NGOs.

Then just a reminder, that in 2009 we reported on the racket, here, in “Aid to Africa an unmitigated disaster.”

And, who can forget the wrath brought down on the head of Irish journalist Kevin Myers who said this in July 2008:

The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him.

Back to the Linda Polman book review, here is Sims (emphasis mine):

What’s wrong with humanitarian aid? The short answer to the question posed by Dutch reporter Linda Polman in the subtitle of her book is “everything.”


Miss Polman knows what she is talking about when she says foreign aid is a racket. She has tramped through countless refugee camps in Africa, interviewing aid workers, refugees, African government officials, and rebel leaders. What she found is one of the biggest con-games of our time.

That there is genuinely terrible suffering, disease, poverty, and violence across much of Africa and Asia she does not question. That western humanitarian and development aid is the answer, or even part of the answer, she does question. She thinks all it does is perpetuate poverty, fund corruption, and foster dependence. To the question “So we should do nothing then?” she answers that that would be better than what we are doing now.

Miss Polman is not the first reporter or chastened aid worker who has come to that conclusion, yet every year the money spent on humanitarian and development aid increases—she says the idea of donor fatigue is a myth—and what she calls “the crisis caravan” rolls on. Why? The short answer is money.

The biggest players in the aid game are the international non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, which get money from governments and private donors.*** There are tens of thousands of them; no one knows how many. On average, 1,000 of them descend on a humanitarian crisis zone, along with 10 United Nation agencies, and at least twice as many government aid organizations. With their flags and tents, and white Land Cruisers, relief camps are like a traveling circus.

Phantom aid!

Each year governments spend $120 billion on humanitarian and development aid, but an average of 60 percent never leaves the donor countries. It’s called “phantom aid,” and is spent on salaries, conferences, publicity, transportation, and contracts for Western businesses that make or deliver aid supplies. Miss Polman says the Americans are the worst offenders; an estimated 70 to 80 percent is phantom aid.

Read it all, here.

*** Like Church World Service perhaps?  CWS is one of the top nine federal refugee contractors and you may recognize them as the “crop walk” organizers.   I haven’t looked at a Form 990 for CWS in awhile.  Here is 2011.   Some interesting numbers:

Income $78,732,897

Government grants $39,190,629 (almost exactly 50% of their funding comes from you!)

Total salaries $15.2 million  (with pensions and benefits another $5 million)

Top two highest salaried employees with benefits:  $268,000 and $296,000

$1.3 million went to pay rent

$1.7 million went to travel (yippee!)

$2.2 million went to professional fees (whatever that is)

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