The Haiti Earthquake Is Devastating. Here’s How to Help


Scenes from the aftermath of the recent Haiti earthquake are devastating. The magnitude-7.2 earthquake, which struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on August 14, impacts an area where about 1.5 million Haitians live, The New York Times reports. So far the quake has killed at least 2,189 people and injured at least 12,000 more, the Times reports, along with an untold number of families displaced. UNICEF estimates that 84,000 homes have been damaged or wrecked, in addition to key public infrastructure like roads, hospitals, and schools.

Providing urgent humanitarian aid in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (per UNICEF), is particularly complicated right now. After the country’s president was assassinated last month, the country is in political crisis and lacks a stable government to coordinate the incoming relief efforts, as the Times explains. There are other challenges to delivering aid, as well: Gangs largely control the only main road to the region from capital Port-au-Prince, a tropical storm this week triggered mudslides and floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

On top of all this, some previous dysfunctional relief efforts in Haiti give cause for concern. After the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, poor planning and disorganized distribution held up urgently needed aid, the Times reports, while an NPR and ProPublica investigation into $500 million the American Red Cross raised discovered alleged financial mismanagement and lack of transparency. (The Red Cross said in a statement to NBC News that it “strongly disputes” these claims.)

So how do you help in a meaningful way? While there are excellent international NGOs operating in Haiti, some of the most successful and sustainable efforts are locally based grassroots organizations, as NBC explains. These groups are staffed or led by Haitians who have a deep knowledge and understanding of the systems and communities they are working within and are often better equipped to respond to rapidly changing crisis situations on the ground. “The funding goes a lot further when you’re letting a Haitian who knows the country and cares about their country spend it,” Brad Johnson, head of nonprofit HaitiOne, told NBC.

Therefore, while some of the organizations we list here have been evaluated by third parties (like by nonprofit watchdog organization Charity Navigator) on measures including transparency and accountability, others are smaller, grassroots organizations that have not. (Getting an organization registered with 501(c)(3) status can be an expensive bureaucratic process.) Keep in mind that anytime you are donating money, you want do your own research so you know how your contributions will be used.

With an emphasis on both organizations that are led or largely staffed by Haitians and NGOs that score highly for accountability and transparency (and/or work closely with local partner organizations), here are some of the relief efforts you might consider donating to.

This nonprofit health care provider (four stars on Charity Navigator) operates out of Fond-des-Blancs’s St. Boniface Hospital in southern Haiti, which offers a wide variety of medical care (including a neonatal intensive care unit, women’s health center, and mental health services). The organization employs more than 500 people in Haiti (including doctors, nurses, midwives, and pharmacists), with a reported 98% being Haitian.

Health Equity International is currently evacuating patients from the disaster zone and providing emergency medical care, including lifesaving surgical procedures, to survivors. Funds will go toward medications, medical supplies, and equipment for St. Boniface and other hospitals in the affected region.

This organization was formed out of The Haiti Fund, a five-year fund originally established by the Boston Foundation to help respond to the 2010 earthquake. The Haiti Development Institute takes a systemic approach to making long-term changes in rural communities by providing financial and organizational support to vetted Haitian nonprofits already doing good work. (See examples of its successes following the 2016 earthquake here.)

Its earthquake relief fund is putting resources directly toward local community organizations. “By channeling disaster assistance to local Haitian organizations with roots and boots in the affected communities, we strengthen community institutions that will be there to drive full recovery—from immediate response through reconstruction to prosperity,” according to its site.

This local foundation—created and led by Haitians and supported by Open Society Foundations and nonprofit Ayiti Demen—is directing emergency funds toward its network of grassroots partners in the southwest, whom they worked with after 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. This “robust system of grassroots organizations built on Haiti’s traditional models of community, mutual aid, and cooperation” includes small cocoa and dairy farmers and women-run agricultural enterprises, according to Fokal. The first phase of its disaster-relief program includes supporting small, local organizations (serving about 7,000 families) and businesses with cash transfers.

This nonprofit, founded by Haitians and Americans in 1994, resources and follows the lead of community groups throughout Haiti. “The Lambi Fund is based on the premise that the Haitian people understand how development is best achieved in their country,” according to Lambi’s mission statement, and “never dictates to a community organization what should be done.”

Nearly all of the 60 community organizations that Lambi serves in the impacted southern region have asked for assistance following the earthquake. While these groups are continuing to assess the damage done, Lambi is currently raising money to provide survivors with food, water, and other essentials.

Fonkoze is a family of three organizations whose joint mission is to empower Haitians, especially women, to break the generational cycle of poverty: a Haitian microfinance company, a Haitian nonprofit that offers development services (like adult education), and a U.S.-based fundraising arm (three stars on Charity Navigator). Fonkoze says that of the more than 800 people who work there, almost all are Haitian.

In addition to supporting long-term economic recovery, Fonkoze’s immediate response includes distributing hygiene kits, providing much-needed loans to local businesses (like traders) to keep the local economy going, and supporting staff affected by the earthquake with cash, hygiene kits, and psychological support following the trauma.

This nonprofit (three stars on Charity Navigator) works directly with the local grassroots organization Na Rive. When it comes to disaster relief specifically, “Na Rive’s​ know-how and extensive network in food purchasing and distribution, coupled with our fundraising abilities, allow us to respond quickly and effectively…often before larger organizations can get there,” the What If Foundation says.

Currently Na Rive is coordinating first-response efforts, including setting up food pantries and mobile medical clinics. They are also assessing critical needs in tandem with leaders in the affected communities, developing long-term assistance plans, and working on getting medication and other supplies from the bordering Dominican Republic.

Soil is a nonprofit organization developing sustainable, economical sanitation services in Haiti. The group has set up an Earthquake Emergency Response fund. “Our long-term presence in Haiti means that we have the community connections, donor trust, and staff capacity to respond to these emergencies,” Soil says. It is delivering emergency aid to affected areas, including hospitals and some of the more remote rural communities impacted, as well as supporting the efforts of other upstanding local organizations.

This NGO (four stars on Charity Navigator), which focuses on long-term development programs in areas like education and health care, has set up an emergency response fund and already shared plans and budget estimates for both their short- and long-term response to the earthquake. They also share frequent, detailed updates on its efforts on its site and Instagram to keep supporters involved in its work. So far it has distributed tarps, medical supplies, and emergency kits, and the group’s infirmary in St. Etienne is open for treating the wounded.

This Port-au-Prince hospital is not in the impacted region but is “at overcapacity with victims from the south, mainly children” who have been transported there, according to its GoFundMe page. The hospital, which is supported by a partnership with Haitian-led community nonprofit Project Medishare, has also sent health care workers south to provide medical care in the affected areas. Its campaign is raising emergency funds for medical supplies and other urgently needed essentials.

This faith-based collective of more than 600 local partners (including churches, schools, nonprofits, and orphanages) collaborates across Haiti to support their communities. According to the latest field report by the alliance’s disaster-response team, the most urgent needs right now include medical supplies, water, food, shelter kits, hygiene kits, generators, and large tents. HaitiOne says that as of August 18, its accomplishments include supplying 4,450 families with three weeks of food and two hospitals with a variety of medical supplies and equipment.



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