At least 230,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 11, 2010, less than ten miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 300,000 sustained injuries. A staggering 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. In response...

In Response to a Disaster

At least 230,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 11, 2010, less than ten miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 300,000 sustained injuries. A staggering 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged.

In response to this disaster, the Legatum Foundation seeded the Haiti Earthquake Recovery Fund, with a US$ 100,000 grant. The Earthquake Recovery Fund aimed to identify practical means of support in areas that other relief agencies were neglecting.


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Strategic Initiative

SECTOR

Disaster Recovery

TOTAL INVESTMENT

US$ 281,275

LOCATION

Haiti

LIVES CHANGED

85,029

SOCIAL IMPACT INDEX

54.2 (out of 100)

AVERAGE COST PER LIFE

US$ 3.31

Expand All

SI Breakdown:

Key Achievements

  • Thousands benefit from solar panels – 11,000 households received solar kits. Each kit comprised of a lamp, solar panel, radio connector and mobile phone charger.
  • Thousands benefit from food support – 11,930 individuals received food support in the weeks following the earthquake.
  • Thousands receive medical support – 11,041 people received medical support, including surgery, amputation, setting of broken bones and dressing of wounds.

The Problem

At least 230,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 11, 2010, less than ten miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 300,000 sustained injuries. A staggering 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. Many parts of the populous city were reduced to rubble – interspersed with flattened cars, twisted metal, broken furniture, and personal possessions.

Over one million Haitians were left homeless by the disaster. Most of them set up temporary shelters under tarps, bed sheets, and cardboard in parks, on sidewalks, on islands in traffic circles, and even on the streets themselves.

Dave Mann, Univers Medical Centre’s financial director, provided the following account via email six days after the earthquake:

“Just a quick report concerning the return of our relief team [from the first trip to Port-au-Prince]. The relief team returned early this morning (Sunday) around 2:00 am Hugues Bastien’s [Director of Univers Medical Centre] verbal report can be summed up in the word which was reiterated in virtually every one of his sentences – awful. The capital city is destroyed. There is no food, clean water, or sanitation. The few remaining medical facilities are absolutely overwhelmed. All of Port-au-Prince is in ruins.

...Several senators, other top governmental officials, heads of police stations, and many UN personnel died – and untold tens of thousands more. I don’t know if we ever will have an accurate count of the dead. Estimates range from 50,000 to 500,000. Some bodies have already been covered in mass graves and many are uncounted under the rubble. But still many, many corpses are lying exposed, bloated, and stinking. People are becoming accustomed to them, sitting next to them, sleeping next to them, for lack of any place else to go...”

Solution

In response to this disaster, the Legatum Foundation seeded the Haiti Earthquake Recovery Fund, with a US$ 100,000 grant. The Earthquake Recovery Fund aimed to identify practical means of support in areas that other relief agencies were neglecting.  Following on-the-ground research, the Legatum Foundation’s funds were directed toward the provision of solar kits comprising solar panels, lamps, radio connectors, and mobile phone chargers, to 8,000 homeless families. Cathay Pacific transported the kits free of charge from Hong Kong to Miami. The kits were then shipped to Port-au-Prince, where they were delivered to three partner organisations for distribution: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Concern Worldwide, and Mission of Hope. ADRA distributed 5,000 solar kits to families living in a tented camp on the grounds of the National Adventist University; Mission of Hope distributed 1,000 kits through local community-based partners; Concern Worldwide distributed 2,000 kits on La Gonâve Island, just off the coast of Port-au-Prince, where the population swelled by 25 percent after the earthquake.

The result was that hitherto darkened tent cities now had access to small LEDs lights allowing mother's to care for the children and improving the security of the neighbourhood.

The Legatum Foundation’s investment inspired others to give and the Fund quickly became a success, due to the generous support of several organisations including Strømme Foundation and dozens of individuals – including Legatum Foundation employees – who gave through online giving platforms. Contributions to the Fund allowed for the purchase of an additional 3,000 solar kits.

Critical Analysis

Reacting quickly to a disaster is imperative.  However, doing so prudently, identifying the points of greatest need is more challenging and requires local knowledge. Following Legatum's seed investment the Haiti Earthquake Recovery Fund was able to provide 11,000 solar kits to homeless families. The Fund also enabled highly effective, locally-based organisations in Haiti to deliver immediate assistance to victims, providing food, clean water, and medical attention to more than 20,000 people.

While phone chargers allowed people to communicate with loved ones in the days after the disaster, radio connectors enabled them to learn about food distributions. Lamps provided light at night in the temporary shelters, reducing the need for open flames in close proximity to the flammable materials that made up people’s makeshift homes. The lamps allowed people to prepare meals, care for children, and have a sense of community – and normality – after dark. Having a light source at night also provided increased security, especially for vulnerable women and girls.

Like most organisations working in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, the Legatum Foundation encountered unanticipated logistical difficulties. It was an unexpected benefit that Cathay Pacific agreed to ship the solar kits from Hong Kong to Miami free of charge, saving shipping costs and freeing more funds to purchase solar kits.

Lessons Learned

Successes:

Emergency services saved lives – The emergency response enabled these organisations to save hundreds of lives that could have otherwise been lost. Medical teams offered immediate assistance such as bandaging wounds, stabilising broken limbs, and performing amputations of damaged limbs that would have resulted in other medical complications.

Local partners increased efficiency and impact – Local teams are vital in facilitating distribution logistics and organising communities during emergencies. Their knowledge of the area, relative to that of many larger, international organisations, was critical in serving communities that had been adversely affected by the earthquake but had not received the media coverage that was informing national and international response efforts.

Solar panels filled an important gap – the  solar kits addressed an acute need that had remained overlooked, and for which no other solution was immediately available. Power lines had been severely affected by the earthquake, and the Haitian government lacked the capacity to restore electricity in those neighbourhoods in which the infrastructure had been severely damaged.

Challenges:

Logistical difficulties – Responding to natural disasters requires organised logistics or access to a network with the capacity to immediately or quickly deliver life-saving first assistance to survivors. Organisations assisted through this fund had to organise themselves to deliver meals, medical aid and other assistance to communities with which they were unfamiliar. Therefore, they needed to partner with people from those communities to identify those who were most in need of assistance, and in some cases, to help deliver aid.

Widespread earthquake damage hampered delivery of solar panels – Delivering relief aid where infrastructure has been devastated requires improvisation which increases costs and delivery time. In the case of Haiti, the airport at Port-au-Prince had been damaged, and the airport customs was temporarily managed by the US government before reverting to the Haitian authorities. In addition to this management crisis, the airport’s computer systems were damaged, forcing customs officers to manually process cargo, further delaying the release of goods.

Haiti Earthquake Recovery : Featured Projects

SII ScoreProject NameGrantLives ChangedCost Per LifeSector
57.00 Floresta (Plant with Purpose)$31,8008,700$3.66
57.00 Eben-Ezer Clinic$30,0006,913$4.34
53.20 Jean Robert Cadet Restavek Foundation$26,5513,000$8.85
49.40 Coalition of Children in Need/ Univers Medical Cen.$21,0002,160$9.72
Note: The Social Impact Index Score reflects the relative social impact of a given development project. The lowest possible score is 20; the highest possible score is 100.

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