Tag Archives: haiti

Revisiting earthquake economics

In the months since the Haiti earthquake, tent cities have sprung up in Port-au-Prince. Frontline and NPR’s Planet Money report on the communities that have developed out of economic necessity.

Planet Money’s Adam Davidson in Haiti:

Beyond housing, various industries are also having to adjust to the new economy in Haiti. Miami Herald and WLRN reporter Niala Boodhoo visited a rum distillery, a cocoa farm, and a microfinance organization to find out how the country’s production has changed.

Boodhoo joined The Takeaway for a chat about her findings in Haiti, including the food crisis and the issue of remittances – monies sent from families abroad to help their families in Haiti.

I think the immediate problem for a lot of people is food. You have a country where 2/3 of the labor force is engaged in agriculture but is still producing less than half the food that’s needed in the country.

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Paying for disaster

Relief workers in Concepcion, Chile. Credit: Flickr/Globovision

Relief workers in Concepcion, Chile. Credit: Flickr/Globovision

Chile and Haiti suffered similar massive earthquakes, but the aftermath and impact of the disasters couldn’t be more different.

Chile’s much more economically developed than Haiti and has made huge progress over the past 20 years, which partially contributed to limiting the country’s death toll after the earthquake. So recovery, as Marketplace’s Tess Vigeland reports, will be focused (after human relief) on not losing the economic gains in areas like natural resource developments and infrastructure improvements. She spoke with Kevin Casas-Zamora, of the Brookings Institution:

Vigeland: You mentioned that there’s been a lot of economic growth in Chile. How much of that do you know went into infrastructure that perhaps contributed to the death toll not being greater?

Casas-Zamora: I think why the death toll was as low as it has been given the magnitude of the tragedy, it ultimately has to do with development in general. The glaring comparison between Chile and Haiti showcases very well why development matters. And it matters because it saves hundreds of thousands of lives.

Vigeland: What do you think the rest of the world, other governments, are taking away from how Chile has handled this crisis thus far?

Casas-Zamora: My sense is that the most remarkable aspect of all this is that it comes in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. And the contrast couldn’t be greater. Really, in Chile what we’re witnessing is a state that works, whereas in Haiti the most glaring absence in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake was of a state at all. I mean it was sort of a phantom state. Whereas in the case of Chile, you can definitely see what a difference a functioning state makes when a disaster such as this one strikes.

The effect of the earthquake on Chile’s natural resources business is a major concern. Nightly Business Report’s Terri Cullen reports:

The location of the disaster can inflate commodities prices as well. For example, Chile is the world’s largest copper producer. The quake briefly sent the price of copper soaring to a seven-week high, before settling back on word the country’s biggest mines are undamaged. Oil prices also rose after Chile’s government said the quake disrupted oil production in the country, so it would need to import more fuel.

The threat of escalating inflation and the loss of human productivity will no doubt hamper economic growth in Chile and Haiti in the months, and perhaps years, to come. But the rebuilding and recovery effort could potentially wind up helping the economy in the long run.

Haiti’s economic status isn’t the only reason the quake there was so much more devastating than Chile’s. Other factors, including a direct hit to the capital city, and that Haiti hasn’t been an earthquake-prone area, also contributed to a greater impact in the Caribbean nation.

But it’s not a contest. Both countries have much rebuilding to do and “donor fatigue” is a real issue. The Christian Science Monitor compares the giving to both countries so far. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, NPR published this guide to giving wisely and advice how citizens can assist both ongoing causes and the cause-du-jour.

The giving text

Earthquake in Haiti/ Credit: Matthew Marek, American Red Cross

Earthquake in Haiti/ Credit: Matthew Marek, American Red Cross

The devastating earthquake in Haiti has dominated headlines this week, and now we are learning where aid is going and how people are giving. The spread of information and opportunities to contribute to the cause online are more advanced than during any previous crisis – to date, over $5 million dollars has been raised from text message donation programs alone.

Scott Jagow at Marketplace explains how text donations work and why they may be turning “slacktivists” into activists.

Since the money is being billed to customers and collected later, the phone companies have to advance it to the Red Cross and the other organizations…. It also allows people to act immediately as the crisis is unfolding (when they are the most emotionally moved by it as well). The trick will be getting the money in place as quickly as the technology is allowing it to be donated, and of course, as with any natural disaster, properly accounting for it and spending it effectively.

Those text donations may take a little while to meet their destination — up to 90 days — as GigaOm reported, but surely the need will still be there. Social giving site MGive is even mapping where those text donations have come from.

Once the donation is made, where does it go? Doesn’t common sense dictate that Haiti would need goods and services before or in tandem with financial donations? GlobalPost says no – supplies and drugs clog up a system that’s trying to get sorted. After the Asian tsunami in 2004, there was a “mountain of materials that confounded the efforts of the pros, and made it more difficult to deliver essential supplies on the earthquake-ravaged roads.”

Under no circumstances should you mail care packages, toys, food or clothes. Don’t even think about sending drugs. The response to prior disasters shows that regardless of your intentions, you will only be making matters worse.

For a list of where to donate and how, PBS NewsHour has compiled a page of organizations sending relief funds directly to Haiti, including Wyclef Jean’s aid organization Yele, the American Red Cross, and Partners in Health.

In addition to donation resources, there are emerging ways of finding people and information coming out of Haiti.

The Miami Herald and WLRN are following Facebook messages from people in Haiti and Facebook is trying to unclog servers so people can find each other via groups.

A map at http://haiti.ushahidi.com/ plots incidents in Haiti as they occur and reports from workers and citizens.

NPR’s Twitter list aggregates updates from people in Haiti and organizations working in the region.