Haiti: Jump Starting the Recovery with Solutions for the Long Term

As we write this post, government officials and international groups are meeting in Montreal to discuss “long-term reconstruction and arrangement for a donor conference to be held in March.” There is no need to wait. Philanthropists can support evidence-based programs that are underway right now in Haiti addressing immediate needs while building capacity on the ground for the long term.


  • Common sense, experience from other disasters (e.g. Aceh tsunami), and research all point to the same thing. Involve communities in their own recovery, rather than relying on outside contractors, and you will see a more lasting impact.
  • With the Haitian banking system at a stand still, there is an urgent need for access to cash for local people to meet basic needs as well as for business to continue operations for the long run.

Here are 2 models philanthropists can support that are meeting immediate relief needs in a way that links with long-term development: 1) Cash-for-work (CFW) programs and 2) Micro-finance banking providing cash transfer and remittances to local people.

1) Cash-for-work (CFW) programs

  • Basics – pay local people directly to clean-up with links to skills training in such areas as brick making and construction
  • They address multiple levels:

    • Near-term, they're a way to clear the rubble and get young men actively engaged in clean-up operations
    • Mid-term, they get cash into the economy and build self-sufficiency
    • Long-term, they provide job skills and community bonds needed for lasting recovery.

2 organizations philanthropists can support that are implementing this evidence-based strategy in Haiti:

UNDP (United Nations Development Program)

  • UNDP started with a Cash-for-work program last Tuesday that will expand throughout affected areas. They are paying local people directly to clean up rubble. This will then be linked to skills training, brick making, and construction skills. Once fully operational, the project will employ 220,000 people, indirectly benefiting around 1 million Haitians. (Read the full article on the UNDP website.)
  • This strategy has been used recently in Haiti by the UNDP after the Hurricanes in 2008 in collaboration with the Haitian government. UNDP has been able to leverage staff and resources from an ongoing project to jump-start this effort.
  • There is an easy way for individuals to donate to UNDP program through the UN Foundation Website.

Mercy Corps

  • In addition to providing food, clean water, sanitation, and trauma support, Mercy Corps is initiating a CFW program in Haiti. Visit the Mercy Corps website to find out What They're Doing in Haiti.
  • Mercy Corps has a strong track record in disaster response and CFW programs.
  • Mercy Corps’ Cash-for-work program was instrumental in Aceh after the Tsunami. An outside assessment of the program by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found:

    • “CFW provided a critical source of cash for tsunami victims and helped empower displaced populations to return to their pre-tsunami residences: 91% of exit survey participants indicated that CFW helped to facilitate return to their communities. Other reported psychosocial benefits of CFW included providing productive activities for tsunami survivors and giving communities an opportunity to work together. Mercy Corps’ experience in Aceh demonstrates that relief efforts that provide cash disbursements to local populations can be safely delivered on a widespread basis in emergencies, and that, when implemented on a short-term basis, can have positive impacts at the individual as well as the community level”(Doocy, et. al., 2005)

2) Micro-finance and financial services

  • Basics – provide cash transfers, remittances, loans, and other financial services to local people
  • They address multiple levels:

    • Near-term, ensure that Haitians have the resources to meet basic needs and get much needed cash into the economy. They also provide a secure and rapid way for families and friends abroad to send money home to Haiti.
    • Mid-term, allow locals access to capital for rebuilding
    • Long-term, provide loans and financial services so that Haitian businesses can succeed


  • Fonkoze is Haiti’s largest micro-finance organization with a mission to build the economic foundation for democracy in Haiti by providing the rural poor – mostly women – with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
  • They offer a full range of financial services to the rural-based poor, currently reaching more then 225,000 savers and borrowers.
  • Through their emergency Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Fund, they have been able to set up emergency centers where branches can resume their operations, giving their clients access to the capital they need to deal with immediate needs (e.g., rebuilding homes) as well as the overwhelming challenges that lay ahead. The fund also provides financial resources to ensure that new loans are available for women who have lost their businesses and need to re-establish them.
  • As of Saturday, 34 Fonkoze branches through-out the country (including one in PoP) are operational and now have enough cash to satisfy transfer and remittance needs without problems.
  • Philanthropists can support this fund at: https://www.fonkoze.org

Take home for philanthropists:

Charitable donations often support immediate relief. But programs (like Cash-for-work and Micro-financing banking) move beyond immediate relief to setting the stage for a lasting recovery. Thanks to CHIP team members Carol McLaughlin, Zehua Li, Kat Rosqueta, Liore Klein, and Autumn Walden for supporting information.