Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Three Years On: Hope for Haiti

January 7, 2013
Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection / cc

As we approach the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, reconstruction and recovery efforts continue—as does the debate within the development community: Why aren’t recovery efforts moving faster? Are international donors and NGOs helping or hurting recovery? Can traditional aid work amidst Haiti's weak government institutions? Are there alternative approaches that would be better?

CGD’s efforts on Haiti’s challenges continue. Here are our recent suggestions for alternative approaches in Haiti, as well as previous innovative ideas that remain relevant:

1) Cash Transfers for Haitians

Vijaja Ramachandran, Senior Fellow

Hurricane Sandy has exacerbated the food crisis in Haiti, as well as increased the incidence of water-based diseases, like cholera. Donors have responded accordingly, but donors must also take steps to improve the quality of their assistance to Haiti. Cash transfers are often the best way to empower disaster victims to rebuild their lives, while also generating demand that fuels the local economy. I recommend the World Food Programme’s Cash for Assets program as an effective model to be implemented for Haitians to purchase much-needed goods and services, in addition to coordinated humanitarian relief.

2) Improve Transparency and Accountability

Vijaya Ramachandran, Senior Fellow, and Julie Walz, Policy Analyst

Since the 2010 earthquake, over $6 billion has been disbursed in official aid to help the people of Haiti. Almost 90 percent of aid has gone to international NGOs and private contractors (9.5 percent has gone to the Government of Haiti and .4 percent to Haitian NGOs and businesses). Yet, there’s very little transparency about how this money is spent. Funders should require more evaluations of NGO and contractor activities, and also report their activities in the IATI format. Further, the Government of Haiti should be encouraged to procure services through competitive bidding. This would not only increase accountability of NGOs and contractors providing the services but also enable the Haitian government to build control over the process.

3) Increase Local Procurement

Vijaya Ramachandran, Senior Fellow, and Julie Walz, Policy Analyst

Out of every $100 spent by the US Government for reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, only $1.35 went directly to Haitian companies. The current US development strategy focuses on stimulating economic activity and pledges support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises along with the development of Caracol Industrial Park. Yet, a key tool is missing in the strategy to build economic security and jobs in Haiti – buying from local businesses.

4) Better Haiti Aid: Migration

Michael Clemens, Senior Fellow

“The U.S. government added Haiti to the list of more than 50 countries eligible to participate in the H-2 visa program for temporary and seasonal workers, ending a longstanding policy of excluding Haitians from America’s largest temporary employment-based visa program. This is wonderful news for Haitians and Americans. It has the potential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic opportunity for Haitian workers and their families—at no cost to the U.S. or Haitian governments, and with no increase in overall U.S. immigration. This seemingly tiny change has vast economic potential. Given the huge wage differences (an estimated $19,000 in additional annual income per Haitian worker), if just 2,000 Haitians are permitted to work as H-2 workers in the United States each year, over the course of 10 years, that’s $400 million in additional, new income for Haitian families. That’s equal in size to the entire U.S. post-earthquake budget for reconstruction in Haiti. Building on this great work, the US should consider a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.  Haitians who have been approved for US permanent residency must sometimes wait as much as 11 years in Haiti to receive their green cards. A parole program would permit some of them to wait for their green cards in the United Stated instead.”

5) Cholera in Haiti: The Blame Game

Victoria Fan, Research Fellow, and Richard Cash, Senior Lecturer on Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health

“Since October 2010, Haiti has struggled to control a deadly cholera outbreak—on top of ongoing recovery efforts from the devastating earthquake in January 2010. In December 2011, a group of lawyers in Haiti, on behalf of some 15,000 victims of cholera, sued the United Nations for $50,000 for each victim and double that for families of those who died. Focusing on these immediate objects of blame are of epidemiologic interest, but deflect attention away from the country experiencing the disease, and in this case, unable to control the spread. In a country where aid agencies and NGOs play major roles relative to the government, this outbreak should draw attention not only to immediate causes but more importantly to the long-term failure by every involved party and to the urgency of improving Haiti’s water and sanitation as soon as possible.”

Click here and here to see earlier lists of alternative development ideas for Haiti, featuring more ideas and commentary on post-quake development efforts.

Related Experts

Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy and Senior Fellow
Photo of Victoria Fan
Non-Resident Fellow
Non-Resident Fellow