By Sandra Macías del Villar

As we pass the two-year mark in helping Haiti recover from one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in history, articles and reports have been published that detail what has and has not been done. Among those reports, the underlying question is a search for the truth—where has all the money gone?

The one thing that holds true about the billions of dollars that were pledged to help Haiti is that almost none of the money from the public and international organizations has reached Haitian nonprofits. Recent analyses have shown that money pledged went directly to government aid agencies in the form of contracts and to big international nonprofits, for-profit companies, and United Nations organizations.

In fact, according to the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti, only 0.4 percent of international aid has gone directly to Haitian nonprofits. The fact that money has been going into the wrong hands should be a call to action for grant makers and philanthropists to give money and other support to local Haitian grass-roots organizations that have been largely ignored during the past 24 months.

At the Global Fund for Children, we strongly believe in the power of community organizations to act as catalysts for change. In the past two years, we have provided grants to 11 Haitian grass-roots organizations that provide direct services to 60,000 children and others. These groups take bold, innovative approaches despite constantly striving against a system that rarely supports them and deprives them of a voice that begs to be heard.

The groups we support are diverse. Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktimwas established by rape survivors to provide critical and immediate support to young sexual-assault victims, and come together to transform the underlying conditions of sexual violence in the tent camps. Li ,Li ,Li provides medical services to prevent cholera and arranges for volunteers to read out loud to children displaced by the earthquake, which helps them cope with post-traumatic stress.

Even before the tragic disaster Haiti faced two years ago, the country had been repeatedly dubbed “the republic of NGO’s.” Although the country has a population of just under 10 million, it has more than 3,000 nongovernmental organizations operating independently. The majority are foreign entities or are led by foreigners who lack the local knowledge and have their own agenda. While the presence of international aid groups is important, recovery and renewal support for any country should be funneled directly at the grass-roots level.

The groups that make up the “NGO republic” base their aid on what they want to deliver and not what Haitians actually need.

So by the time we mark next year’s anniversary, can we turn things around? By giving money to groups operating at the grass-roots level, we can.

Sandra Macías del Villar is associate program officer for Brazil and the Caribbean at the Global Fund for Children.