Highlights from “Opportunities for Impact—Health, Education and Livelihoods in Haiti”

April 20, 2010  • Josh Weissburg

Cross-posted from the Global Philanthropy Forum blog.

This breakout session takes a cross-section of philanthropy work happening in different fields and puts those together in a particularly difficult context: Haiti. It is clear from the beginning of this session that a key piece of effective giving to alleviate immediate suffering in Haiti is careful thought about what comes next. For instance, Jonathan Reckford of Habitat for Humanity International warns that the tent camps urgently needed outside of Port-au-Prince in the days following the earthquake must not become permanent. As the economy in the capital begins to recover, donors should think carefully about how to spur livelihoods and income among those in such temporary camps, enabling them to rebuild their lives and plot their own futures. Earthquake survivors ought not languish in recovery mode indefinitely, and smart giving can provide options for them.

Kris Balderston of the U.S. State Department notes that while the situation in Haiti is one of the worst disasters on record, there are also some remarkably heartening lessons emerging from the response to Haiti’s crisis. The scale of response was remarkable, and the level of donor coordination has been unmatched. These positives will be carried forward to the extent that relief efforts transform over time into efforts targeting the fundamental problems that were present in Haiti long before the earthquake.

Luis Alberto Moreno agrees: the fundamental challenge is to create and sustain jobs over time, he says; these will support the institutions needed in Haiti. Aceh, Indonesia, (hard-hit by the massive tsunami several years ago) provides a good case study for the way donors can work with government to transition from relief to lasting development. And this is already happening in certain cases: the Inter-American Development Bank is setting up channels for Haitian mango farmers to process their produce with the help of private companies like Coca Cola to generate revenue for themselves by reaching consumer markets abroad. The potential is there.