Don’t Forget Haiti

Two years ago today, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake. The damage done and suffering inflicted was extraordinary, but so too was the response it inspired: In the wake of the earthquake, approximately half of U.S. households donated to earthquake relief. This wave of generosity funded critical short-term relief efforts as well as the efforts of many NGOs to address longer-term development issues.

As is common after disasters, Haiti has largely faded from the news and funding flows have greatly diminished: the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported last week that many nonprofits active in Haiti have now spent most of the earthquake relief-related funds. Meantime, Haiti continues to struggle with issues that both preceded and stemmed from conditions subsequent to the earthquake, including the world’s worst cholera epidemic.

Although frustratingly slow at times, there has been progress. In health, for example, although the numbers of cholera cases remain high (nearly half a million in 2011), the number of cholera deaths has declined substantially due largely to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Many NGOs (including CARE, Save the Children, SOIL, International Relief and Development, Oxfam, Partners In Health, and others) have also been working on access to clean water and sanitation, which are critical to avoiding cholera in the first place. The long-term development efforts and models profiled in our Center’s guide: Haiti: How Can I Help? remain relevant and effective means of offering ongoing and needed support to Haiti.

As discussed in an article in this month’s Foundation Review, one of the interesting findings of our “I’m not Rockefeller” study of individual high net worth donors was that quite a few donors were very “sticky” to particular issues and organizations: once they had a made a commitment, they were willing and able to be patient and to invest for the long term. On this second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, we celebrate this trait, and urge all donors, individual and institutional, to stay the course: don’t forget Haiti.