Did Catholic schools unwittingly finance the distribution of condoms in Haiti through Free the Children?

Here’s what we know.

We know that Catholic schools in Canada raised funds for Free the Children (FTC) to bring relief to Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010 (for example here and here).

We know that part of FTC’s help to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake was delivered by the condom-pushing NGO called Partners in Health.

We know that both Craig and Marc Kielburger consider condom distribution to be part of “basic medicine”. So when FTC’s website says that its work with PIH in Haiti involves providing “medical care” to Haitians, it’s entirely possible that this medical care included condoms. Condoms are, after all, a major activity of PIH.

Does that sound like a stretch? What do you suppose PIH was doing in Haiti following the earthquake? Do you think they stopped distributing condoms to focus exclusively on emergencies? Not a chance. They actually intensified contraception distribution, perhaps because the increased donations gave them more resources to do so.

Exhibit A: While Haiti was struggling on so many levels and PIH’s medical staff could have been reallocated to more important issues, PIH was, among other things, concerned that the earthquake caused a shortage of contraception:

Davis has seen the effects of contraception shortages in Haiti. Unwanted pregnancies in the country spiked after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people, according to the United Nations Population Fund. And Haiti continues to struggle with high prevalence rates of HIV. (Source)

More than 220,000 people died, the country was in ruins, outbreaks of cholera were killing people, dehydration was spreading due to a lack of running water, etc. Should they really be worrying about condoms at a time like that?

Exhibit B:

After the Quake

Although PIH was actively improving healthcare for Haitians before the earthquake, its aftermath will undoubtedly affect its efforts. And this, according to Marsh, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  “I think a disaster like this creates a lot of opportunity,” she says, as meeting needs will demand strengthened infrastructure. “I think we have an opportunity to make the system work better.” New efforts will involve reaching populations displaced by the earthquake, with a particular emphasis on women’s health. Access to women’s healthcare, explains Marsh, is particularly important because “displaced populations tend to have more sexual violence, more sexual activity, less choice involved, and more desperation.” This volatile mix increases the need for STI testing, family planning, pregnancy testing, prenatal care, emergency contraception, and condoms. “All of these things need to be brought into these communities of displaced persons,” Marsh says. (Source)

They were basically visiting encampments of “displaced persons” (read people that were homeless because their homes collapsed) and doling out condoms and emergency contraception, among other things. Emergency contraception, by the way, can act as an abortifacient depending on the drug administered. This wasn’t their sole activity in Haiti after the earthquake, but the fact that they felt compelled to increase this activity when other needs were more pressing is a worrying sign from the perspective of Catholic fundraising.

Exhibit C: The year after the quake, in 2011, PIH decided to team up with a condom manufacturer called Sir Richard’s to make available more free condoms to Haitians. They admit this was done directly in response to the earthquake:

He is Mathew Gerson, who found inspiration for Sir Richard’s while reading a biography of one of the co-founders of Partners in Health, which Sir Richard’s now partners with to bring condoms to Haiti, one of the target countries of Sir Richard’s free condom distribution.

According to Sir Richard’s and Partners in Health, the cost of buying condoms in Haiti is high in the wake of Port-au-Prince’s 2010 earthquake and “the need for free condoms is growing…to keep a probable surge of new HIV infections from happening in the post-disaster regions.” (Source)

Same theme in a 2012 news article:

Partners in Health is building a hospital, scheduled to open in a few months in Mirebalais, 30 miles north of Port-au-Prince. The state-of-the-art teaching hospital, which has an emphasis on family planning, will help replace the medical facilities ravaged by the 2010 earthquake. (Source)

Medical facilities were destroyed, so PIH wanted to replace them with a centre emphasizing family planning?

This is very unsettling if you gave money through FTC to help Haiti after the disaster. We haven’t done a financial audit of the money trail so we can’t say with certainty where the Catholic dollars went. But it’s a definite possibility that some of it financed PIH’s condoms. Not exactly the type of “relief” you had in mind when you felt compelled to help those desperate Haitians, eh?


One thought on “Did Catholic schools unwittingly finance the distribution of condoms in Haiti through Free the Children?

  1. Great essay!!

    So, now we have morally problematic work by FTC in Kenya, India and Haiti.

    I wonder what country is next?? Something in Latin America??

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