Private Response to Haitian Earthquake Expected to be Significant

Today President Obama said “we need to summon the tremendous generosity and compassion of the American people,” as he pledged $100 million towards the relief effort.

Americans are responding swiftly and generously to needs in Haiti—even before the President’s encouragement.

Within five hours of the earthquake, World Vision had enabled their website giving vehicle. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, charity software provider Convio expected to process more donations within a day of the earthquake than it had in their busiest day of 2009, which yielded $20 million.

With deaths estimated between 30,000 and 100,000 and approximately 3 million people affected, cash is needed now in the first but fleeting search and rescue phase of the post-disaster response. The window for rescue will quickly come to a close and food, shelter and medicines will be needed before any reconstruction can begin. At the bottom of this blog is a list of different organizations to which you can donate.

While the President has been quoted as saying that this is “one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history”, unfortunately Haiti’s disaster quickly follows Myanmar’s cyclone that killed 100,000 and the earthquake in China that claimed almost 90,000 lives.

It will be some time before the world knows the true extent of the damage in Haiti, but based on previous responses to natural disasters around the world, it is likely that the bi-lateral and multi-lateral pledges will be generous, but the private response will be even greater.

While it may have been the Chinese government’s intent to limit the amount of foreign aid received in the face of the earthquake, the U.S. government gave $3.1M as compared to the $90M of donations from American corporations. The government of Myanmar blocked as much outside help as possible following the cyclone, but Americans gave $30.1M to help the Burmese as compared to the official U.S. aid of $24M. Finally, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami claimed the lives of over 230,000. American citizens gave over $2B as compared to the official government assistance of $350M. It should be noted that these tallies do not include the military response which in the case of the tsunami could have been as high as $500M—a sum still dwarfed in value by the private sector response.

Technology is moving money faster and hopefully encouraging greater generosity through the ease of donating via text messaging and the internet. Questions remain about the potential profit that credit card companies stand to gain, with the exception of Capital One who waives all fees for all charity transactions. Citizens should be wary of schemes and take precautions to give to reputable organizations: World Vision, Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and GlobalGiving, to name a few.

Given the proximity of Haiti to the U.S., the size of the Haitian Diaspora in the U.S. and the fact that President Obama is keen to be distinguish himself differently from the perception of how his predecessor responded to Katrina, it is likely that this is just the beginning of a response that is sure to be sizeable and perhaps of unprecedented proportions.

Heidi Metcalf Little
Senior Fellow & Deputy Director
Center for Global Prosperity

How to Help in response to the Haitian Earthquake

Resources:
Philanthropy Action: This blog gives advice to people interested in donating to Haiti who want to ensure their donations are effective.
Harvard Business Review: Blog by Timothy Ogden on how to Help in Haiti.
InterAction: Gives lists and summaries of organizations that are helping in the relief efforts in Haiti.

If you are interested in giving Now:

Catholic Relief Services
World Vision
Doctor’s Without Borders
Partners in Health
Caritas

If you are interested in giving to Reconstruction:

Haiti Partners: Long established organization working in Haiti. They have created an earthquake response fund where donations will go to emergency and long term needs.
Global Giving: Has different partners in Haiti that you can choose which different organizations to give to.
American Jewish World Service: This organization supports community-based organizations in Haiti.
Yelehaiti: Funded by singer Wyclef Jean in 2005, they have organized an earthquake fund to respond to immediate needs and reconstructive needs of Haitians. The easiest way to donate to Yelehaiti is by texting YELE to 501501 which will donate $5.
Help Haiti Now: a registered non-profit established in 2005. They are based in Montrouis and are ok. Donations are going to support displaced Haitians north of Port Au Prince in Montrouis area.
Geneva Global: Has 5 community based partners in Haiti. Geneva Global is in the process of creating a fund that will allocate donations to their different partners in Haiti.

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