A moment of silence for Haiti, and what we can do

More than 100,000 are feared dead in the earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday.  You can see the damage at the Boston Globe’s Big Picture.

The immediate generosity and speed of the response to the 7.0 earthquake is moving.  The Red Cross alone raised more than $1 million in $10 increments in a campaign backed by the U.S. State Department.

As much as we need a swift and immediate response for the millions of people affected, a complete response will also help address the longer-term needs of the Haitian people.

This letter I received from Eric Kesseler and Bruce Boyd at Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors felt exceptionally thoughtful and helpful, so I’m sharing its content in full:

Dear Sasha,

As you have no doubt heard, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday, just 10 miles from the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. While we have already communicated with you recently, we thought that the crisis in Haiti warranted an additional, immediate email update.

Our resident disaster philanthropy expert, Regine Webster, has been tracking the latest news from Haiti since the crisis began. Here’s what we now know, and what you need to know as you consider your philanthropic response.


Up to 3 million people could be affected by this earthquake, the worst in 200 years. Phone lines are down, main roadways are impassable, and electricity is only sporadically available. Urgent needs include search and rescue teams, logistics and telecommunications support, primary care services, emergency health supplies, temporary shelter, and water purification. Haiti’s population is also particularly vulnerable to the manmade shocks that often follow natural disasters: severe hurricanes in December 2008, coupled with pre-existing poverty and political instability, had already weakened community resources.

Governments worldwide are responding to the current disaster by sending search and rescue teams, goods, and money. Relief organizations are likewise ramping up their efforts and sending out calls for support. Clients and contacts of ours have reached out to us to ask for the latest information and our recommendations. Here are some key considerations to bear in mind.

Recommendations for Philanthropists

  • Support medium- to long-term recovery efforts that “Build it Better.” Most donors will see the stirring images from Haiti and react today, donating dollars that are allocated for emergency humanitarian relief. Relief activities are obviously critical, but they do not address the need for longer-term recovery, which will require even more dollars and receive far less attention. Donors should consider making longer-term investments. They should also consider making their investments more strategic by following the Hurricane Katrina response mantra, “Build it Better.” In Haiti, donors can provide financial support to improve the water and sanitation infrastructure, education system, housing stock, access to healthcare, and more.
  • Support organizations with a long-standing history of development work in Haiti. Many international organizations have a decades-long presence in Haiti, providing development programs across a range of sectors. These organizations have well-established relationships with local communities and community-based organizations. Supporting these organizations maximizes existing expertise and response capacity and minimizes the learning curve associated with working in a complex disaster environment.
  • Add disaster funding to an existing mission. Donors can most effectively leverage their resources for responding to the Haitian earthquake by tapping their in-house expertise. For example, a foundation whose mission is to support shelter can focus on rebuilding homes in earthquake-affected communities. Recovery needs in Haiti will span all sectors: environment, agriculture, shelter, water and sanitation, education, protection, health care, etc. You can help best where you know the most.
  • Support disaster-risk reduction. Advance preparation and early warning systems help reduce the damage disasters cause. As Haitians work to rebuild their communities following this natural disaster, preparedness needs for future emergencies should be taken into account. This includes support for alert and communication systems, disaster-proof construction, agricultural planning, and operational contingency planning.

Potential Candidates for Support

Arabella Advisors rarely makes blanket endorsements of nonprofit organizations, but because of the pressing nature of this crisis, we are making a partial exception today. Among the many well-qualified local and international organizations focused on this crisis, the following organizations look well-positioned to help in Haiti, based on our initial research and past experience with disaster-recovery funding.

  • CARE – With an active presence in Haiti since 1954, CARE’s work there focuses on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, maternal and child health, education, food security, and water and sanitation.
  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – CRS has more than 50 years of experience in Haiti and currently serves some 200,000 of the poorest and most marginalized Haitians in the areas of health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, agriculture, peace building and migration.
  • Oxfam – With a staff of 200, including a 15-member emergency response team, Oxfam International brings expertise in water, sanitation and public health in Haiti, as well as local knowledge and community networks established over the past decade.
  • PLAN – Having worked in Haiti since 1973, PLAN currently implements child-centered community development programs featuring Health, Education for Girls and Boys, HIV/AIDS, and the Rights of the Child.
  • Save the Children – Having worked in Haiti since 1985, primarily in Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau region, Save the Children provides health, education, protection and food security programs to vulnerable children.

Additional Resources

Our sense is that a vast amount of information will soon be available on the crisis in Haiti. Insofar as we discover further information that is useful to philanthropists and not readily available, we will be sure to share it with you. In the meantime, feel free to call or email us if you have questions. And please feel free to share this update with anyone who may find it helpful.


Bruce Boyd and Eric Kessler

email: info@arabellaadvisors.com
web: http://www.arabellaadvisors.com

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