Cash Trickling Into Haiti

Families and friends of Haitians have started pouring money into the island nation after the earthquake caused two weeks without any remittances. Though Haitian officials do not know the total amount that has been received, there has been a welcome and significant spike. Haiti's first lady, Elisabeth Delatour Préval, remarked that Haitian Americans from Boston, Chicago, Miami, and New York are "helping with their money and time." The remittances are critical as many Haitian families were dependent upon them even before the earthquake hit. Extreme poverty makes bank accounts almost useless in Haiti, as most Haitians do not have enough to justify or qualify for an account and instead rely on cash wire transfers. The World Bank has estimated that the transfers constitute as much as 30 percent of the country's GDP, to the tune of more than $1.5 billion. Though the remittances have resumed, The New York Times reports that "there simply are not enough open offices," with some Haitians waiting as long as 10 hours for their disbursements. Even worse: Some Haitians report being charged a 10percent "disaster fee" on the transfers desperately needed in a nation where most are going without food, water, and electricity.