Don’t Send Food to Haiti

By Bryan Schaaf on Thursday, December 31, 2009.

When people think of Haiti, they often think of hunger, and not without reason. Though there has been significant progress over the past year, hunger remains a pervasive problem.  Achieving food security is fundamental to nutrition, health, education, economic growth, stability and all the other issues we lump under “development.”  There are well intentioned groups, such as this one from Kansas, that often try to send packages of food to Haiti.  It might make one feel good, but in reality, it does little good. There is much that we can do to promote food security in Haiti, but it is up to us to ensure that our time, energy, and resources make an actual, and not just a perceived, difference.

 

Schools and community groups organize food drives for Haiti throughout the year.  There is usually an uptick in the number of groups that do so after a natural disaster.  In Haiti’s case, this usually means a sudden-onset disaster like a hurricane.  It is very frustrating for the professional organizations that respond to these disasters given that what they most need is cash. According to the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), cash contributions allow professional relief agencies to purchase exactly what is needed for disaster victims.  Money is easy to transport and it doesn’t have to clear customs nor does it clog up ports.  People who live and work in Haiti understand how difficult getting goods in and out the country can be.  When food and other items can be purchased locally, it puts much needed cash into the economy.  All too often, crate after crate of food and other commodities sent into disaster affected countries undermine the local markets.    

 

Sending food in an ad-hoc manner does not promote food security, defined by the World Food Summit of 1996 as being when “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”  The three pillars of food security then are:

 

1) Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.

 

2) Food access: sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.

 

3) Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

 

No country, including the United States, is completely food secure.  The roots of food insecurity in Haiti have long roots that are historical, political, and demographic.  Presently, the vast majority of Haiti’s tree-cover has been cut down for cooking fuel. Most Haitian realize the environmental damage this causes, but a family has to eat.  Fom this, we see food security is related to energy.  With the trees gone, erosion has made the land less productive and more prone to crop destroyinh floods.  Food security is also related to agriculture and natural disasters. 

 

Without roads, it is difficult to get agricultural commodities, to regional markets where they can be sold.  Food security is influenced to a certain extent then by infrastructure.  It also depends on water, both for irrigation and for drinking.  Of course, it depends on livelihoods too.  When individuals have jobs, they have more purchasing power to buy the food staples their family needs.  Almost every Haitian with a job is supporting friends and family – that includes members of the Diaspora who send remittances every time they get a paycheck.  If the government can’t provide a safety net, then you rely on your friends and family. So who you know matters as well. 

 

What does a Haitian typically eat?  Rice, beans, corn, copious amounts of cooking oil, seasonal fruits and vegetables, fish if it can be caught, and meat from time to time if it can be bought. Dairy is too expensive for most although there are a number of small, innovative organizations trying to change this.  Another important factor is whether people buy their staples domestically or whether they are imported.  While I lived in Haiti for two and a half years, it is plausible that I did not have a single bowl of Haitian rice.  Haiti was once capable of meeting its own internal demand for rice, although now the markets have become flooded with (often heavily subsidized) rice from the United States, Japan, Argentina, Japan, and so on.  While buying imported rice helped Haitian families save money (a bit like how shopping at Wal-Mart instead of local stores helps Americans save money), it was one of the reasons (along with land disputes, outmigration from rural areas, erosion, and poorly thought out policies) that agricultural production has declined so dramatically in Haiti. 

 

As a result of rapid food cost inflation in early 2008, Haitians found themselves with the same amount of money but less purchasing power to buy imported food staples.  At a minimum, this produced frustration but, for the most vulnerable, it created desperation.  As a result of this (as well as some political maneuvering) riots took place in Port au Prince, Les Cayes, and elsewhere.  Trade influences food security.  It makes sense for Haiti to export certain cash crops such as the Mango Francique, Vanilla, Coffee, and Scotch Bonnet Peppers.  However, being overly dependent on the importation of food stables is a precarious existence these days.  This has to change. 

 

Governance matters.  To what extent is a government capable of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, who are invariably going to be women and children?  If the government lacks capacity to provide the services itself, can it coordinate the organizations that can by setting strategies, facilitating their work, resolving disputes, etc?  Haiti very much needs a green revolution.  What is the government's plan, how long it will take, what partners are needed, and what resources and expertise are needed internally and from the international community? Will a Haitian green revolution depend on chemical based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified seeds, or will Haiti chart a different course? Important questions for another day.  

 

So what can an individual or group do to promote food security in Haiti?  First, educate yourself on the root causes of hunger in Haiti and worldwide.  This way you will know what causes to follow, when to write an op-ed in your local paper, when to make a phone call to your senator and/or representatives, etc.  Share what you’ve learned with friends, family, and community groups. Let others know there is hope for Haiti – that for all the challenges, things are changing and they can be a part of it. Encourage them to establish a long term relationship with an organization doing good work in Haiti - organizations that regard Haitians as equals, rather than as passive recipients of charitable goods.  

 

If you would like to make a donation to an organization that is promoting food security in Haiti, or if you would like to hold a fundraiser to that end, below is a list of organizations ranging from the very large to the very small that are having an impact in a variety of ways.  This is not to say there are not other organizations in Haiti that are not making a difference – just that you will not go wrong with the ones listed below.  To support them is to have an impact in Haiti. 

 

The World Food Program (WFP):  WFP is the world’s foremost provided of emergency food assistance.  It receives agricultural surplus from governments around the world and to a certain extent (and hopefully more in the future), it purchases food locally and regionally – allowing it to feed vulnerable populations while supporting agricultural economies.  WFP excels at identifying and assisting the most vulnerable and can respond to food needs rapidly. First, read about WFP’s work in Haiti.  Play the Free Rice game – every correct answer will fund ten grains of rice for the poor.  Consider making a short video about hunger for WFP.  Play the Food Force game which lets you experience WFP’s role in emergency response. Then place your photo on the Wall Against Hunger.  Encourage friends to do the same.

 

United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF):  UNICEF works closely with the Government of Haiti, other UN agencies, as well as international and local organizations to protect and assist children, including those who are malnourished.  UNICEF also plays an important role in organizing immunization campaigns, deworming children, and providing micronutrients such as Vitamin A to bolster their immune systems.  UNICEF has highly developed expertise in expanding access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. UNICEF also protects children by protecting their mothers.  For example, the agency provides training and equipment to health centers in order to prevent maternal mortality.  You can read more about UNICEF's important work in Haiti here.

 

Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (ORE): ORE is an NGO devoted to increasing farmer income, promoting nutritionally enhanced food staples, and improving the environment through the widespread planting of commercial fruit trees.  The fruit trees are ideal for reforestation efforts as they will not be cut down, they are seen as having value. In addition, ORE has been promoting the planting and use of bamboo.

 

Floresta: Floresta is a faith based environmental organization that is devoted to promoting sustainable agriculture, reforestation, and soil conservation. Floresta has empowered local communities to plant over 200,000 trees and create over 2,000 compost piles.  Floresta also works with farmers in 35 villages to establish banking cooperatives with credit and savings systems, with nearly 1,000 participants.  Floresta is also active in the Dominican Republic and facilitates trans-border projects and exchanges.

 

Project Medishare: Project Medishare has worked with community groups, Partners in Health, the Haitian Ministry of Health, and other partners to establish teams of community health workers, a clinic, and a hospital in the province of Thomonde on the Central Plateau. Project Medishare is in the process of building a Medical Complex and Training Center for Childhood Nutrition.  Part of this complex will be a production facility which will manufacture and distribute akamil (AKA1000) which is a mix of locally grown cereals (rice, corn, millet, wheat) and vegetables (beans) blended into a powder.  It is highly nutritious, culturally appropriate, affordable, and can be made entirely with local ingredients.  Project Medishare intends to  distribute akamil in Thomonde before expanding to the entire Central Plateau.  In this way, the nutritional needs of vulnerable children can be met while building the regional economy, which is largely agricultural.  

 

Med and Foods for Kids (MFK):  MFK is a small health and nutrition oriented organization operating in Cap Haitian.  Like Project Medishare, MFK treats severely malnourished children with a locally produced therapeutic food called Medika Mamba (Medical Peanut Butter).  Is the Haitian answer to Plumpynut and has shown promising results. Using locally purchased peanuts builds the agricultural economy around Cap Haitian while meeting the nutritional needs of vulnerable children.

 

Fondwa University:  In 2004, the very ambitious Peasant Association of Fondwa (APF) came together to establish Haiti’s first (and only) rural university. Fondwa provides full scholarships to students in agriculture, livestock and other areas provided that graduates serve in a rural community upon completion of their education.  This grass-roots and service learning oriented approach will help to cultivate a new generation of community leaders in Haiti’s rural areas – where most Haitians live.  This is an institution deserving of expansion and replication.

 

Lambi Fund: The Lambi Fund’s mission is to promote democracy by developing Haiti's civil society.  In order to do that, Lambi Fund helps establish sustainable agricultural projects in rural areas, with an emphasis on small farmers, most of whom are women.  Lambi Fund also has constructed community cisterns and irrigation networks. In addition, Lambi Fund has established micro-credit initiatives as well as self-sufficient pig and goat breeding programs.  Finally, Lambi Fund holds organizational and leadership training for peasant groups and women’s groups.

 

Food security is complex, but there are many ways to make a difference through donating, educating, and advocating.  I encourage individuals and community groups to support food security efforts in Haiti, but to do it well.  Today is the last day of 2009 and I am looking forward to a year of continued progress for Haiti. Happy New Years to everyone and enjoy your pumpkin soup!

Bryan

Six Questions You Should ask Before Donating Goods Overseas

4/23/2010
The Huffington Post
By Saundra Schimmelpfennig
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With the recent TOMS Shoes One Day Without Shoes campaign and the confiscated goods sent to Haiti, it is easy to see why so many people believe that sending donated goods overseas is a great way to help. Unfortunately, donated goods often go unused because they are inappropriate to the local climate, culture or religion. Donations can do more harm than good when they outcompete local merchants selling similar goods or cost the recipients money to dispose of the inappropriate goods. Finally, it often costs more to ship used goods than to buy new goods locally.
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Donated goods have caused so many problems that the U.S. Agency for International Developement (USAID) teams up with the Center for International Disaster Information each year to host a public service announcement contest to help educate donors. This year's winners were just announced.
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6 questions you should ask before donating goods overseas:
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1. Is the donation appropriate for the local climate, culture, and religion?
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2. After a disaster, will an influx of donated goods clog the ports?
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3. Are the items actually needed?
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4. Are the goods available locally?
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5. Will the people receiving the goods be able to afford to fix or replace the donated item?
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6. Will donating this item do more harm than good?
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Let's go through them one by one.
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Is the donated item appropriate for the climate, culture, religion of those you are trying to help?
Far too many examples of inappropriate donations came from the tsunami. Winter hat, coats, and gloves to southern Thailand. Canned pork and skimpy clothing donated to Muslim communities. None of these donations were actually used and some of them were offensive as well.
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Will an influx of donated items clog the ports?
All people and goods arriving in a country must enter through sea or air ports. The influx of people and goods entering a country after a disaster may far exceed the capacity of the local government or the damaged ports and infrastructure to process and transport arriving shipments. This can lead to a bottleneck of goods waiting to be processed and distributed. Unless the country has the staff and capacity to unload, sort, clear, and move goods out of the port, well-intended donations of clothing and other supplies may prevent shipments of critical relief supplies from getting through.
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Are the items actually needed?
A church group once invited me to help them with a care package they were sending to the needy in Thailand. I declined when I saw what they were sending; cloth diapers and diaper pins, and baby bottles. Rural Thais didn't use diapers or bottles at that time.
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Bottles were also rarely used, and only by those who were well-off or married to a foreigner. Everyone else breastfed, even working women. My neighbor babysat for a nurse who worked at the hospital a block or two up the road. The nurse came to the house several times a day to breastfeed her baby. Bottle feeding would require either a breast pump and refrigeration or baby formula. If they could afford either of those options they would be wealthy enough not to need donated bottles.
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Are the goods available locally?
Even after disasters it may be possible to purchase goods from the areas surrounding the disaster site that were not destroyed. Purchasing goods from those areas ensures that the goods are appropriate to the local climate and culture. It also supports livelihoods which helps people help themselves.
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After the tsunami, a group of students shipped donated school supplies to Thailand. The person picking them up paid more in clearing customs and shipping them to the affected area than he would have if he'd bought them from the local marketplace. Purchasing goods locally puts money into the economy. Not only does the person selling it to you make a little profit, but they will likely order more, increasing sales at the factory as well.
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Will the people receiving the goods be able to afford to fix or replace the donated item?
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Imagine if Russia donated cars to your state to help during the financial crisis. You might be thrilled to receive a free car (although the U.S. car manufactures and dealerships will not be thrilled that their market was undercut) until the first time you had to repair it. The owner's manual printed in Russian won't be too helpful, and it will be difficult to find a mechanic or spare parts for the vehicle.
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Items like imported pipes may not work with local systems because of differences in threads or diameters based on inches, not centimeters. If the pipes are broken they cannot be replaced, nor can the system be expanded. If you decide to donate bottles and formula, can the women who are no longer nursing afford to buy more when the donation runs out?
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Will giving this item do more harm than good?
Unfortunately we often know so little about the effects of our donations that you may not be able to answer this question. After the tsunami, due to media hype and a desire to help, thousands of people donated clothing. So many clothes were donated to India that truckloads of them were just dumped alongside the road. They became a choking hazard for the local cattle and government staff had to be diverted from the recovery effort to dispose of the donations. Tons of donated medicine go unused after every disaster because they are inappropriate for the local situation, not labeled in the local language, or simply not needed. Properly disposing of this unused medicine can cost the country thousands of dollars. Donated baby formula mixed with contaminated water can lead to severe diarrhea and potentially death due to dehydration.
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Consider donating within your own community
Although it is tempting to donate goods to help people overseas, it is usually cheaper and better to just send money. Instead of sending over your bras and flip flops, hold a community garage sale and donate the proceeds, or contact a local charity and see how you can best help.
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Other Resources:
Interaction: How to Help
Center of International Disaster Information (CIDI): Guidelines for appropriate International Disaster Donations
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Follow Saundra Schimmelpfennig on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Good_Intents

In quake-ravaged Haiti, some donations miss the mark

3/24/2010
Seattle Times
By Hal Bernton
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Women hand relief boxes to a crowd of men Feb. 26 outside a distribution point in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. For aid organizations, headaches sometimes surround the process of trying to ship and deliver donated supplies.
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Poorly packed food donations arrived on a barge from Puerto Rico. They took several weeks to unload, and more time to sort. Dr. Tom Green, a Seattle orthopedic surgeon who spent February in Haiti, was swamped with medical supplies he didn't need but said it was hard to obtain some of the specialized equipment he did need. Here, he displays a cabinet of donated supplies.
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Early in February, a Puerto Rican barge arrived here loaded with boxes of donated food loosely stacked on pallets rather than stowed in easy-to-offload containers. The barge took several weeks to unload, claiming precious dock space that could have been made available to other vessels with aid supplies.
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Seattle-based World Concern helped unload the barge, then sorted and distributed a portion of the eclectic mix of food, which ranged from potato chips to grape juice to canned spaghetti. "This was a case of good intentions — but the road to hell is paved with good intentions," said Peter Nuttall, a World Concern aid worker. Epic disasters such as the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people spur an avalanche of altruistic giving.
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Many people open their wallets. Others want to send something more tangible such as food, medical supplies or clothing. These shipments sometimes miss the mark, and the aid pipeline gets clogged with boxes of poorly sorted goods that are costly and difficult to distribute. Some of the donations arrive too late to be used; others were never even needed. Major aid agencies generally prefer cash donations, which provide more flexibility to respond to needs on the ground.
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The headaches that sometimes surround shipping and delivering donated supplies have prompted some aid organizations, such as Portland-based Mercy Corps, to turn down such gifts unless they come from a major donor sending items in scarce supply.
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"We get lots of these requests, and are just not set up to handle a lot of small donations and do the quality control to make sure that what is sent is needed," said Joy Portella, a Seattle-based spokeswoman for Mercy Corps. "And the shipping can be very expensive, so we prefer to buy things locally [in Haiti] whenever possible."
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Federal Way-based World Vision will ship donated items such as clothes and shoes, but only if they're requested from staff in the country and come in bulk from businesses, rather than small lots from individuals. Other organizations don't want to squelch the zeal that motivates small donors. They try to guide people to contribute in a useful way.
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Seattle-based World Concern, for example, has turned down offers from people wanting to give T-shirts and bandages made from scraps of cloth. But World Concern is soliciting donations of "kids healing kits" with a specified list of toys, school supplies and hygiene items. "It's best to have a conversation with people up front, and make sure what they donate is something we need," said Derek Sciba, a spokesman for World Concern. "We have to be blunt about this, and keep in mind that there are lives at stake."
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In the days following the quake, images of devastation and injured survivors prompted an outpouring of donated hospital supplies, drugs and equipment. Much of that aid arrived quickly and was put to good use. But medical volunteers who treated the injured also experienced plenty of frustration.
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Dr. Thomas Green, a Seattle orthopedic surgeon, found lots of unneeded supplies as he and other volunteers arrived in February to spend a month setting the bones of earthquake victims at St. Damien, a pediatric hospital. The volunteers sorted through duffel bags of supplies to ferret out useful items and clear away the rest. The shipments, for example, included boxes of screws used to repair torn anterior cruciate ligaments. That's an injury often suffered by Americans on athletic fields, but not something Green had to treat in Haiti.
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"There is hundreds of dollars worth of this stuff," Green said. "And it's garbage here. It's in the way."
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Green struggled to find some of the specialized orthopedic equipment needed for surgeries. So he and other medical volunteers went to three freight depots to hunt for the elusive items. Green never found them. But at one depot, he discovered 25 unclaimed pallets of bandages, intravenous fluids, syringes, microscopes and other orphaned medical supplies. "Somebody decided they needed all this to set up a hospital — but that never happened," Green said. "The stuff was just sitting there."
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The pallets were later moved to St. Damien. Sometimes the sheer volume of donations poses a challenge. Back in the fall, Molly Hightower, a 22-year-old Washington woman volunteering with Friends of the Orphans in Haiti, sought to secure shoes for some 500 children. Hightower died in the quake. To honor her memory, the Hightower family launched a shoe appeal that — buoyed by extensive publicity — has brought in 150,000 pairs.
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The family has 50 volunteers in Washington tying pairs together, sorting them into adult and children's sizes and packing them into 4-foot-by-4-foot crates that can be distributed around Haiti.
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Friends of the Orphans and other aid agencies involved with the distribution will try to ensure the shoes are delivered directly to people in need. After they're emptied, the wooden crates — as well as larger shipping containers — could be used to help create temporary shelters. "We're trying to be smart about what we're doing to make thing easier down there," said Mike Hightower, Molly's father.
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Some donated aid winds up for sale on the streets, and aid officials say that is not always a bad thing. People who get 25-pound bags of rice, for example, may sell a portion and then use the money to buy beans, fruit or other items to make a more well-rounded meal. Other efforts to divert aid are more dubious. The Puerto Rican barge sailed for Haiti with no designated recipient. As the donated food was unloaded, several Haitian crews with trucks eagerly claimed part of the cargo. They were booted out of the cargo area but eventually returned to scoop up leftovers.
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"They were kind of sly, like vultures," said Merry Fitzpatrick, director of disaster relief with World Concern. Within a day, food items that bore a striking resemblance to some of the cargo began showing up in street-side markets. World Concern gave part of its share to nuns feeding injured survivors at a school. Other food was distributed to small survivor camps, churches, hospitals and orphanages.
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"Some of it was really great stuff, and we did make good use of it," Fitzpatrick said. "But it took an enormous amount of labor and time." Hal Bernton spent two weeks in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area in the last half of February. Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Logistics Cluster Notes on Unsolicited Donations to Haiti

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/MGAE-82HFQU?OpenDocument&em...
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Briefing Paper – Unsolicited Donations Haiti
Logistics Cluster
2/8/2010
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The purpose of this paper is to provide guidance for governments, commercial enterprises, NGOs, civil society organisations and other entities considering sending donations to Haiti in support of the emergency response to the earthquake.
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Experience of recent emergencies has shown that an international commitment to assist those affected by conflict and sudden-onset disasters, whilst vital for rehabilitation of affected nations, has also resulted in donations of goods accumulating at ports and airports, instead of being delivered to beneficiaries.
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In order for humanitarian aid to be of the most benefit to affected populations, donations should be well-planned with national authorities and the humanitarian community coordinating the relief effort and fully compliant with national requirements for the importation of goods. Cargo that lacks documentation and adequate planning for onward delivery may have an adverse effect on the relief effort by taking up scarce resources, such as aircraft landing slots or storage space, and can place an additional logistics burden on organisations working on the ground.
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Humanitarian aid delivered during the initial phase of the response must also correspond with priorities for life-saving supplies set by the government of Haiti and the Humanitarian Country Team and be necessary and appropriate for intended beneficiaries.
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Within the context of the Haiti earthquake response, this paper outlines practical measures donors can take to avoid the build-up of Unsolicited Bilateral Donations (UBDs) in Haiti and to ensure that the intentions of the international community to assist those in need are fully realised.
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Basic Requirements for Donation of Humanitarian Relief Items
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Consignee – who will receive the cargo?
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- Humanitarian aid sent to Haiti must be addressed to an entity as the intended recipient (consignee). This can be a local or international NGO or UN agency or other entity who, by prior arrangement, has agreed to take responsibility for arranging collection of the cargo once it arrives at the port or airport and for onward delivery and distribution to beneficiaries.
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- Sending goods addressed to "The people of Haiti" will not be sufficient.
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- Aircraft carrying cargo without a consignee will not be allocated a slot for landing at Port-au-Prince airport. In the past cargo arriving at the airport with no consignee to organise collection took up valuable ramp and storage space, preventing other incoming aircraft from offloading.
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Documentation – does this meet requirements for entry into Haiti?
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- All cargo, including humanitarian relief items arriving in Haiti or the Dominican Republic must be accompanied by the correct documentation in order to be accepted by the port and airport authorities, customs and others.
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- Basic documentation required for relief consignments includes the following:
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* Detailed packing list / manifest
* Airway bills or bills of lading
* Letter of donation
* Health certificate (if required)
* Non-commercial invoice
* Certificate of origin
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- Even though importation taxes and duties do not currently apply to humanitarian cargo entering Haiti and the Dominican Republic, there is still a requirement for minimum documentation as stated above.
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- Lack of documentation may result in cargo being refused entry to Haiti and Dominican Republic or onwards movement being delayed for failure to meet requirements of local authorities such as customs, ministry of finance and/or ministry of agriculture etc.
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- The Haitian Government Department of Civil Protection takes the final decision on whether to allow entry of humanitarian goods into Haiti.
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Coordination with humanitarian organisations on the ground – is this type of aid a priority?
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- The humanitarian community in Haiti is responsible for setting priorities for the types of humanitarian aid entering Haiti, to ensure that all resources are focused on the delivery of life-saving or life-enabling materials, rather than on delivering aid that will be needed later.
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- The humanitarian community is organised into sectors (called Clusters) such as health, water and sanitation, shelter etc. Each cluster lead organisation has a focal point who works with a group of similar organisations to coordinate the delivery of specific types of goods. A list of focal points is posted at http://3w.unocha.org/WhoWhatWhere/clusterLeadList.php?uSite=ocha_haiti_e...
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- Potential donors should consult the cluster focal point before sending donations, to get advice on whether the type of relief item is a priority at that time; is indeed a requirement for the response and is appropriate for the affected population.
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- Examples of issues to consider: Before sending food it is important to verify whether the necessary cooking equipment is available; Do medicines and vaccines require transportation and storage at specific temperatures, in which case they may be unusable upon arrival; Are donations of clothes appropriate for the climate; Is electronic equipment compatible with local power supply?
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Special note on donations of infant formula
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- In accordance with internationally accepted guidelines, donations and distribution of infant formula, bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products should not be made. Any procurement of breast milk substitutes should be based on careful needs assessment in coordination with the Haitian Ministry of Public Health (MSPP) and UNICEF. All queries regarding donations should be directed to UNICEF, the designated agency coordinating nutrition in Haiti. Human milk donations require fully functioning cold chains. As these conditions are not currently met in Haiti, human milk donations cannot be used at present. The uncontrolled use of these products could endanger infants' lives.
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Support from the Logistics Cluster – does the donation qualify?
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- Donors requesting assistance from the Logistics Cluster in the Dominican Republic or Haiti for storage or transport of humanitarian relief must first ensure the above conditions relating to consignee, full documentation and coordination with the relevant sector/cluster focal point are met.
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- Complete information about the sending entity is required; the Logistics Cluster provides support to humanitarian organisations.
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- Cargo must be packaged to withstand all stages of handling without breaking (e.g. offloading from aircraft; storage; loading onto trucks or aircraft for onward transport and final offloading at point of distribution) and be clearly labelled with full details of the consignee.
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- At least 48 hours notice must be given for requests for storage or transport.
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- Information and forms for requesting Logistics Cluster support are posted at http://www.logcluster.org/ops/hti10a
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For more information on any of these issues please contact: Haiti@logcluster.org

Red Cross Blog: Help Don't Hinder Haiti

By Claire Durham
January 18, 2010 at 9:30 am
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The reality of unwanted aidCan you hear that scraping noise? That’s me dragging my soap box to centre stage. Please don’t be alarmed and please don’t stop reading now because in the next five minutes you could learn how not donating to the Red Cross could save someone’s life.
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I spend a large amount of my time post-disaster speaking on the phone with people who tell me that they don’t just want to donate money but they want to do more. They have medical items, clothes or food to give instead. People sometimes get cross or upset when I turn down their well meant offer. And that’s the point; their offer is genuinely well intentioned. They just aren’t aware of the reasons why the Red Cross can’t take these goods. Unfortunately I don’t always have the time to fully explain why. Last Friday I spent more than half a day taking such calls for Haiti, even with a bevy of volunteers helping me. When really I should have been chartering an aircraft to deliver blankets and jerry cans to Port au Prince.
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First let me debunk a couple of myths, starting with the principle that “anything is better than nothing”. Trust me, it’s not. Relieving suffering should be guided solely by need and not what people have to donate. Humanitarian aid should also ‘do no harm’. Quite a lot of harm is done when unwanted and unneeded fresh food items rot in piles at the airports and seaports, stopping medicines and blankets getting through.
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Secondly, we don’t own planes. We pay for commercial air freight like anyone else would. And it’s expensive. That’s why we don’t fly blankets and jerry cans out from the UK. We buy and store them in countries close to where disasters happen so that it’s faster and cheaper to get them to where they are needed. We hold stocks for several thousand families so that we are ready to go 24/7. As soon as we can, we start to buy the rest that’s need from the affected country or its neighbours. In particular food, soap and where feasible, medicines. These items will be to local taste, will give a much need monetary boost to the economy and the transportation costs will be lower. The savings made can be used to buy more aid.
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Unwanted donations create chaos, waste and confusion for an already stricken country. The risks are spiralling costs or actual threats to its people, environment and industry. For example local shop owners, who may have lost family members and their home then find their business crumbling as food or clothing aid is imported. Storage space is scarce in every post-disaster setting. A huge influx of goods needs to be housed somewhere. In Banda Aceh after the Tsunami, health centres had to sacrifice patient’s rooms to store inappropriate drugs. The irony is that the medicines sent in to help people instead reduced the number of sick people who could access treatment. Pharmaceuticals are very sensitive to light, heat and humidity. If they are not stored in proper conditions, at best they lose some of their effectiveness, at worst they become completely useless. You have no way of know where they have been and you can’t tell just by looking if these items are still going to work.
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Medicines not recognised by local doctors could lead to fatal doses being prescribed. Patients face a bewildering and ever changing array of pills in different boxes and with different amounts to be taken. Often the packaging and instruction leaflet is in a foreign language. The chance of accidently overdosing is very real. Also if the quality of the drugs or equipment is not acceptable for the UK then it is also not acceptable for Haiti. Drugs that are not required, those that have expired or have no expiry date have to be destroyed. Incineration is preferred as this prevents the hazard of land filled medicines contaminating water supplies or drugs being collected and sold on the black market. In Eritrea after the war of independence, seven truckloads of expired aspirin took six months to burn. The real tragedy is the cost of this process. In the Venezuela floods in 2000, seventy percent of donated pharmaceuticals had to be destroyed. To be able to cover this cost, a support line to provide psychological support to the survivors had to be shut down.
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Imagine you have to help 10,000 families put up aid tents. What would you do? I would probably train a handful of volunteers how to put up said tent and get them out training others. Now what would you do if every single one of those tents was different? Replace the word tent with the following: incubator, water pump, dialysis machine. With these items you will also have maintenance and spare parts. We standardise items and put them in our catalogue for a reason. Efficiency and effectiveness are key to what we do.
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I do understand that people want to help. The British Red Cross has capacity to help others due to the generosity of the British public and we are deeply grateful for their support. But when we ask for money it is because, for us, the best way to help those people directly affected by the disaster. Your money will pay for life saving items, and the trucks and planes to get them there, and the ERU teams on the ground handing them out. If you do have any saleable items, like clothing or books then please donate them to the Red Cross shops and the money raised will also support our work.
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I have one more favour to ask. Could you please get just another person you know to read this blog. The more people who can understand the down side of unsolicited goods, the less chance there is of this stuff cluttering up the aid effort. And the fewer phone calls I will have to take to explain individually why we can’t accept the offer. Then I can get on with the practical side of helping the Haitian people, which is, let’s face it, what all of us want to do. Right, I’ll step away from the soap box now, thanks for listening.

Disaster do-gooders can actually hinder help (MSNBC - 1/23/2010)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34958965/ns/world_news-haiti_earthquake/prin...
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Uninvited volunteers, useless donations can cost money, time — and lives
By JoNel Aleccia
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No question, the two church-goers from New Jersey had the best intentions in the world when they arrived in Port-au-Prince this week to help victims of Haiti’s killer earthquake. Trouble was, that was all they had in a land where food, water, shelter and transportation are at a desperate premium, said Laura Blank, a disaster communications manager on the ground for World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid group with long ties to the country.
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“They seemed very eager and very passionate about helping the people of Haiti, but they didn’t have a ride to get out of the airport,” said Blank, who had to direct the pair to assistance. More than a week after a magnitude-7 earthquake devastated the country, disaster organizers say they’re seeing the first signs of a problem that can hinder even the most ambitious recovery efforts: good intentions gone wrong.
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From volunteer medical teams who show up uninvited, to stateside donors who ship boxes of unusable household goods, misdirected compassion can actually tax scarce resources, costing time, money, energy — and lives, experts say. “Everyone wants to be a hero. Everyone wants to help,” said Dr. Thomas Kirsch, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. “It’s not the way to do it.”
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Even a medical crew from his own school — Kirsch declined to identify them — arrived in Haiti so ill-prepared they had to seek sustenance from non-governmental organizations. "They had no bedding, supplies or food,” he said. “They ended up glomming onto some of the NGOs.”
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What to do with well-meaning volunteers is not a new problem. In every disaster, large numbers of people simply show up to help. A handbook published by California disaster officials estimates organizers can count on 50,000 “convergent” volunteers after any severe earthquake. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, more than 40,000 unsolicited volunteers arrived at Ground Zero in New York.
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In the U.S. and around the world, aid organizations are walking a fine line, trying to encourage skilled professionals who can provide indispensable assistance — and waving off those who might not be up to the task. At the federal Center for International Disaster Information, a stern note warns the well-intentioned:
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“Volunteers without prior disaster relief experience are generally not selected for relief assignments,” it reads. “Most offers of another body to drive trucks, set up tents, and feed children are not accepted.” It’s an effort to help would-be Samaritans recognize the reality of the situation, said CIDI director Suzanne H. Brooks.
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“It’s very romantic in the TV and movies,” she said. “They think it’s flying in for a weekend. They need to think of it in terms of months.”
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Those best suited to help are probably already there, experts said. They’re trained crews who not only have experience working in disasters, but also in developing nations, Kirsch said. The best teams also have a command of Haitian Creole and French, if possible.
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When teams arrive without those skills and without their own supplies, they drain resources that could better be used for actual victims, said Dr. Kristi L. Koenig, an emergency physician at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in disaster response.
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“Unless you’re part of a team before the disaster happens with a formal mission, you’re going to be part of the problem,” she said.
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Even worse, certain volunteers have required emergency intervention themselves, Kirsch noted.
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“Most people do quite well, but about 10 percent don't,” he said. “They end up totally freaking out and having to be evacuated.”
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A different but equally pressing problem is the flood of ill-advised donations that aid agencies already are facing, organizers said. A handful of “Help Haiti” food and clothing drives across the country are inspiring cringes among some workers, said Diana Rothe-Smith, executive director of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, a coalition of agencies. “I would strongly recommend that no donation drives be conducted unless there’s an existing organization on the ground, in Haiti, that has asked for the help,” Rothe-Smith said. “It does pile up very quickly.”
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Donations of old clothes, canned goods, water and outdated prescriptions are accumulating, said Brooks. While such items sound useful, they’re actually expensive to sort, to transport and to distribute, she said. Cast-off drugs can be dangerous. Oftentimes, the household items donated are simply not useful to the disaster victims they’re intended to help. “I guarantee you someone is going to send a winter coat or high-heeled shoes,” Brooks said.
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In fact, after the tsunami in Indonesia in 2004, aid organizers in Sri Lanka were forced to deal with donations of stiletto shoes, expired cans of salmon, evening gowns and even thong panties, according to news reports. In Florida, a truckload of mink coats showed up during the 2004 hurricane season, Rothe-Smith said, a likely tax write-off for a retailer having trouble pushing furs.
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The compassion behind some donations is understandable — and laudable, she added. People see dire images on television or in news reports and they want to help. “It seems to make logical sense to go through your own cupboard and gather those items,” Rothe-Smith said. The reality, however, is that inappropriate donations actually do more harm than good. “If you buy a can of peas and it costs 59 cents, it’ll cost about $80 to get it where it needs to go,” Rothe-Smith said.
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Many agencies try to motivate donors with the mathematics of the situation. Jeff Nene, a spokesman for Convoy of Hope, a Springfield, Mo., agency that feeds 11,000 children a day in Haiti, urges cash donations that allow his group to buy in bulk from large suppliers and retailers.
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“When people give $1, it translates into $7 in the field,” he said. “If they spend $5 for bottled water, that’s nice and it makes them feel good, but probably it costs us more than $5 to send it. If they give us $5, we can get $35 worth of water.”
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That’s a sentiment echoed by virtually every aid agency. “I would really say at this point, honestly, right now, money is the best thing to give,” Rothe-Smith said.
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Donors can find vetted agencies helping in Haiti on sites such as Charity Navigator. Still, trying to direct the flood of compassion can be tricky, Nene acknowledged.
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“Some people get a little miffed by it. They think they’re trying to help and when you don’t receive it in that attitude and spirit, they get upset,” he said.
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“You just have to tread lightly. You don’t want to crush people when they’re so willing to help.”
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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34958965/ns/world_news-haiti_earthquake/

Medical Commodities

If you have medical commodities then scroll through the blogs on this website and link up with health oriented NGOs to see if they need your items. It will be easier if an NGO has a good realtionship with the Ministry of Health and can expedite the process. Otherwise, speaking from experience, if you try to send your goods through customs you may have to pay bribes and/or your goods may be wind up spending months and months there. With the government having been hit hard by this earthquake, anticipate even more delays.

material good

All I am asking if there some special place that we might send new stuffed animals, blankets, crutches, wheel chairs, bed pan and things of that nature. We have several and would like for someone who really needs it all to have it. Not to trash it.

Giving Food or Money or Investing

People finally have realized that sending food to help after a disaster doesn't work. The suggestion is to send money. The argument for sending money so organizations can use the funds in items that are mostly needed according to the circumstances is well received.
We have to somehow find a way to give where the giving keeps on giving and the donor can receive something in return.
Investing in food production in poor countries in promissing agriBusiness companies may do most good after all. You can help making sure that there will be local food available to be purchased by the population receiving cash help while helping creating jobs and consistently eliminating poverty, and get a return.

"Haiti: Help with money, not stuff" (1/13/2010)

By David Case — GlobalPost
Published: January 13, 2010 18:27 ET
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BOSTON — The images emerging from Haiti’s massive earthquake are gut-wrenching. As usual in such disasters, Americans are responding generously. Millions of dollars will be raised.
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If you’re considering doing your part, that’s great. But, experts say, whatever you do, don’t donate anything but money. 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.
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That’s what happened in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. The disaster was followed by an unprecedented outpouring of global generosity. This dramatically facilitated the grisly chore of cleaning up the tens of thousands of bodies left under the tropical sun, and it funded a reconstruction effort that, while far from perfect, provided roofs over the heads of many.
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But aid workers joked that the real tsunami was followed by another tsunami — of misguided goodwill. In an effort to help, people shipped boxes, often following the instructions of local television news programs. And so in Aceh, Indonesia amid the trauma, hunger and devastation, care packages piled up containing everything from pajamas and teddy bears to birth control pills and Bibles — a hodgepodge impossible to sort through. There were boxes filled with half-used ointments and prescription drugs, as if do-gooders had cleaned out their medicine cabinets. And some unscrupulous corporations — exploiting tax write-offs for soon-to-be-expired pharmaceuticals — apparently shipped whatever had been lying around the warehouse for too long.
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It all amounted to 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.Months after the aftershocks stopped, the French aid organization Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres (Pharmacists Without Borders) conducted a study of that second tsunami. In a world where most people lack adequate access to medicine, the results were a travesty.The group found that although officials didn’t request any medicine, they received 4,000 metric tons of it, or more than 4 pounds for each person in the tsunami-affected area. There were multiple-year supplies of antibiotics, and palette loads of drugs unknown to health care providers. Seventy percent of it was labeled in a language that locals did not understand.
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Disasters like the Haiti earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunami present colossal logistical challenges. Nonetheless, in Aceh officials and relief workers did their best to sort through this stock: Drugs were stored in private homes, in hospitals rooms and corridors (despite a desperate shortage of space for patients). Eighty-four percent of the facilities lacked air conditioning, rendering their contents unusable, according to the study. A large depot near Aceh’s airport was so overwhelmed that mountains of pricey pharmaceuticals were dumped outside to rot under the monsoons and tropical sun.
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Of course, the donors were only trying to help, but misplaced intentions actually worsened the suffering. Buried under care packages and out of date antibiotics labeled in Thai and Chinese were the world’s most advanced malaria medications. Meanwhile along the coast, people who had just lost homes and families writhed in malarial fever for lack of treatment.
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In the end, most of the drugs had to be incinerated —you can’t simply send such a stock to the dump, where it would seep into the ground water and create another health hazard. That cost donors and the Indonesian government millions.
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Aceh was by no means unusual in this regard. Massive shipments of useless medicine arrived on the scenes of other heavily televised disasters, such as the Armenian earthquake in 1988 and the Albanian exodus from Kosovo in the late 1990s. After the war ended in Bosnia, 17,000 tons of inappropriate donations had to be burned, according to Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres. Aid workers struggling to ease suffering after Hurricane Mitch reportedly worked late into the night sorting through half-used tubes of Preparation H and opened bottles of Prozac.
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Such harmful donations will almost certainly flood Haiti as well in the coming days. But if you want to help, send money to a reputable aid group instead.
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Editor's note: This story was updated to correct a figure concerning the amount of aid distributed to Aceh victims of the December 2004 tsunami. Officials received more than 4 pounds for each person in the tsunami-affected area, rather than 8 pounds for each person in the province as previously stated.

Fondwa University

Making a donation to University of Fondwa may be an issue... there is an organization called UNIF USA designed to raise money for University of Fondwa (and they haven't been doing too well), if you would like to make a donation to University of Fondwa, make it through UNIF USA. Here is the website; http://www.unifusa.org/home/

Expectations

Haiti has, at times, been hurt by individuals, groups, and agencies that wanted to help it. I feel we have a responsibility that at a minimum we do no harm and ideally are having as much of an impact as possible. If people want to do something simple, I think cash donations to one of the organizations listed, or others like them, is a good place to start. I'd be interested to hear more about your thoughts about food assistance programs in Haiti, which are effective and which are not. Thanks!

Give Food not Bombs

I think the writer expects a lot from amateur philanthropists. Most people want to do something simple, not devote a lot of their lives. Haiti lovers have to give people an easy way to help, not insist on a lot of research before acting.
I just read "Travesty in Haiti". I don’t know if I would trust any of those food programs you listed.
Thanks for your website.

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