It’s been a while since the tsunami that devastated the nations bordering the Indian Ocean — about a year — and a lot of details of those days have faded in that time. But I think I recall most of the details:
1) The United States, through the Navy, was the first nation to respond in force.
2) For quite a while, the US Navy was THE relief agency on the scene.
3) The United States people, through private individuals, organizations, and corporations ended up raising over 4.1 billion dollars for tsunami relief.
4) The United Nations’ Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, initially accused the United States of being “stingy” for not giving more to the UN for relief — an accusation he later had to eat.
Now, a year later, people are finally looking at the books — and it’s quite enlightening.
A good charity, I’ve been led to understand, keeps it overhead to a minimum. I’ve heard 10% of total funding going to keeping the organization going is a good rule of thumb. Some non-profits, like museums, have much higher overheads, and can creep close to 17% — which means that one out of six dollars they receive goes towards basic expenses, and not the core function of the group.
So, how did the United Nations do with that over half a billion dollars they solicited from the nations of the world? In the face of this catastrophe, unprecedented in the modern world, the single greatest national disaster since the United Nations was founded?
Much like a gangster discussing “protection” premiums with a businessman in the neighborhood. “You gimme a third, and we make sure nothing bad will happen to you.”
That’s right. About one dollar in three of the $595 million dollars they took in — just under $200 million dollars — just vanished into the misty worlds of “overhead,” “miscellaneous expenses,” “administration,” and whatnot.
Hey, UN, the next time you need the US for something, pull the other leg for a change. That one’s getting tired.