Among the poorest countries in the world, Haiti has been affected by repeated disasters and tragedy. Still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake, the nation was hit by another earthquake on Aug. 14, 2021, followed by tropical storm Grace. On July 7, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated

In this recap of a recent webinar, Disaster in a Crisis Zone: Understanding the Impact of Haiti’s Earthquake, hosted by the Center for  Disaster Philanthropy, learn how you can be an effective donor supporting Haiti’s recovery.

CDP Director of International Funds Alex Gray moderated the discussion. Panelists included: Karen Keating Ansara, Board Chair, New England International Donors; Pierre Noel, Executive Director, Haiti Development Institute; Marie-Rose Romain Murphy, President of The Haiti Community Foundation and Founder of Economic Stimulus Projects for Work and Action (ESPWA); and Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, Chief of the Emergency Response Section, United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Community-centered Effort

Ansara’s family foundation specifically focuses on Haiti, and uses these principles to guide effective giving that supports, rather than undermines local efforts. She urges other funders to consider these principles in their own giving in order to truly make an impact. 

  • Elevate Haitian voices
  • Promote women’s agency
  • Fund from the bottom up
  • Support networks for broad impact
  • Invest in systems change if possible

“Disaster strikes the poor and the most marginalized the hardest.
 So we can't respond to a disaster without addressing the underlying deprivations and injustices, and without ensuring that citizens' voices are included in the recovery process. And we saw that too often, after the earthquake of 2010, poor Haitians became objects, rather than agents in their recovery,” 

Ansara noted. 

Additionally, Ansara reminded donors that the community extends beyond the geographical boundaries of Haiti.

“The Haitian Diaspora has the cultural competency, language fluency, and investment history. It has been estimated that 25% of Haiti's economy is powered by remittances (gifts of cash) from the Haitian Diaspora to their families. The Diaspora will never leave, as some other NGOs will.”

Focus Areas for Donors:
  • Coordination: There are already players on the ground working to address the immediate and long-term needs of the impacted population. Coordinating these ongoing efforts and providing technological and logistical support will be a crucial piece of a successful recovery. 
  • Medical Needs: According to Stampa “In the area, about 36 hospitals and clinics have been damaged or completely destroyed, and those that are still operating and completely overwhelmed. They lack sufficient personnel and medical supplies.”
  • Shelter: “Thousands of homeless and displaced [people] are in dire need of shelter and a safe environment.” according to Stampa. 
  • WASH: Consistent access to clean water and sanitation will be essential. Following the 2010 earthquake, Haiti struggled with cholera. Avoiding similar outbreaks will be a key part of ensuring the health and safety of communities going forward. 
Where to Give:
  • The Epicenter: The earthquake struck the peninsula. Make sure that your donations are going to organizations working in the most affected areas. 
  • Rural Communities: Needs will be particularly acute in rural areas, where infrastructure damage will threaten the economic stability in communities. 
How to Give:
  • Take Risks: Philanthropic capital is unfettered by the restrictions of corporate or government entities. Trust local communities with your donations. It is ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. 
  • Prioritize Local Leaders: Local leaders have the knowledge and connections to identify and address the most pressing local needs. 
  • Training and Capacity Building: Provide resources like technical knowledge and financial support to existing local groups to help them achieve their full potential. 
  • Give Cash Gifts: In-kind donations create logistical challenges, and often fail to meet local needs. 
  • Invest Local: Investing in local entities can be an essential component of economic recovery. Using outside suppliers can undermine recovery efforts. 
  • Rely on Intermediaries: Use organizations with proven track records in Haiti to effectively direct your donations where they will be most effective.   
  • Join Other Donors: Donors like Ansara are already building relationships with local communities. By working with pooled funds or partnering with other donors, you can benefit from their due diligence and avoid burdening grantees doing the hard work on the ground. 
  • Invest at All Levels: From grassroots to NGOs, there is potential for impact at all types of organizations.
  • Aid to End Aid: Think about how your donations can be used to build a future where Haiti doesn't need aid to survive and recover. 
Community-led, Long-term Approaches

“If you do something without us, you are working against us.” 

Murphy’s words should be a lesson to all of those who wish to help Haitians in the wake of this, and other, disasters. The Haiti Community Foundation doesn’t go into communities before asking permission. They commit to long-term projects with the full cooperation and involvement of local people. 

And, as Noel points out, a long-term strategy will be necessary if we truly want to see impact.

“Haiti is prone to disasters. How do we get to thinking about creating institutions that would stay beyond this response that would help the next disaster? We know there will be more. For the last 30 years local organizations -- farmer organizations, women’s organizations -- have been leading their communities to development. We do not want to actually lose that. And ... the one way we could lose that is if this response that's coming in right now actually bypasses them.
 If it does, these organizations will be set back.” 

Get started now and stay in it for the long haul. 

Watch the webinar and view the disaster profile to learn more.