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Online Community Responds Swiftly to Haiti Suffering

By Susan Carey Dempsey on January 13, 2010No Comment

There is little good news out of Haiti today, as it continues to assess the damage and begin to help the survivors of the 7.0 earthquake that struck the impoverished nation yesterday. In an effort to learn how donors can quickly respond to the vast and growing need, onPhilanthropy reached out to a number of organizations who have been working on the ground in Haiti for years.

The most comforting aspect of this difficult story is that online and some phone communications are both helping to get news updates out to the world and enabling the efforts of concerned individuals trying to donate to the relief effort.

First, Desperate Attempts to Assess Casualties and Damage

Concern International has worked in Haiti for years and had an early report on quake damage: “It has been difficult in the darkness to establish the full extent of this appalling tragedy,” said Concern Regional Director for the country, Brid Kennedy. “Phone communications are still down but, to the best of our knowledge, our staff are safe,” she said. Concern has more than 100 staff in the country, mostly Haitian nationals, and works with 16 local partners.

They will be involved in search and rescue and will be assessing the situation on the ground in the capital Port-au-Prince, the town of Saut d’Eau and on the island of La Gonâve, over the next few days. “Food, water, shelter and medicine are the immediate priorities for those that have survived the catastrophe,” said Kennedy.

Haiti, a country beset by political turmoil and severe poverty, has been repeatedly hit by natural disasters. In 2008, Concern provided-post hurricane relief to 1,269 families and helped more than 8,000 others restore their ability to produce food with cash-for-work opportunities.

The public can donate to the appeal through this number: 1 800 59-CONCERN or online through the Concern website at

The public can receive regular updates online from Concern at this Twitter address and through the Concern Website:

Through Blogs and BlackBerries, Word from the Scene

BRAC is a development organization dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives. It has been recognized worldwide for its leadership in microfinance. In Haiti, it partners with two strong local organizations who will be involved in the recovery effort. Here are updates from BRAC USA’s Blog, posted by Susan Davis:

The lights are out. A devasting 7.0 earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti where over 9 million people live. Preliminary reports are that the capital city Port au Prince has severe damage and loss of life. BRAC’s partner there, Fonkoze, is the largest provider of microfinance in the country.

Just minutes ago, I confirmed that Anne Hastings, the head of Fonokoze, and its staff in Port au Prince survived the earthquake. Unfortunately their head office sustained structural damage in the quake as did other major concrete buildings including many government buildings such as the palace, the Ministry of Commerce, the UN offices, Montana Hotel:

So far everyone is ok but we will never be able to work in HQ again… bodies everywhere. Destruction massive. Very little communication gets through even in country. HQ demolished. Will send requests for help later when we know more. Trying to figure out how to get a emerg ops center but almost impossible to get around town or communicate with each other. More later. Anne”

If the largest and strongest buildings in Haiti have collapsed just imagine the situation in the slums and squatter settlements in the city. I shudder to think of the tragedy that will unfold in the days ahead. Please support Fonkoze respond and rebuild at and through Fonkoze USA.

Another of our partners, Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health, reports that his sites and staff are ok as they are located north of the capital city. They are still collecting information on their staff in Port au Prince. Donations can be made at

onPhilanthropy spoke with Susan Davis, who expressed “heartbreak: I can’t believe this country gets knocked so many times.” Davis described Haiti as a “microcosm of our worst forms of abuse, and unsustainable development programs.” According to Davis, some 9,000 NGO’s operate in Haiti, many small-scale, church based groups with little or no coordination. “Their work is good,” she said, “it’s just not enough.” Still, she stressed, these acted as a shock absorber for the repeated blows Haiti endures, with the quake being the latest and probably most devastating of all.

BRAC had participated in an important announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative in the fall, where former President Bill Clinton, now a UN Envoy for Haiti, brought together investors to initiate a two-year plan of economic development for Haiti. Today’s tragedy brings the focus back to the most basic needs for survival, and the prospects for returning to more complex models of development are unclear at best.

As the day wore on, reports came that the United Nations was missing a number of key personnel who had been buried in rubble when their building in Port au Prince collapsed. Ted Turner, who founded the UN Foundation, announced a $1 million donation to support the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, in which $10 million had been earmarked for the Haiti disaster. Collaborative efforts between two emergency response teams from the UN World Food Programme and the UN partner Télécoms Sans Frontières, were deploying to provide emergency communications systems that will enable relief workers to coordinate the delivery of life-saving aid and supplies.

Many Nonprofits in the Region Offer ways to Help

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian charity organization, is dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Haiti is one of nearly 100 countries around the world where World Vision serves close to 100 million people. Their reports from the scene indicate that the quake, which lasted about one minute, was followed by a series of aftershocks felt by World Vision staff members in the affected region:

World Vision is most concerned about the well-being of children and families in the affected areas, where numerous buildings have collapsed. Port-au-Prince is a very densely populated city, enhancing the risk of major infrastructure damage and humanitarian crisis. Haiti is also the poorest and least-developed nation in the Western Hemisphere, where nearly 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day. To help, visit World Vision’s website.

Mercy & Sharing is a humanitarian, non-sectarian not-for-profit organization which has been providing life saving medical interventions, clean water, nutritional support, education and a loving and safe home to abandoned and orphaned children in Haiti since 1994. Through its orphanages, schools, feeding programs and the abandoned baby unit inside the governmental hospital in Port-au-Prince, Mercy & Sharing is caring for the most vulnerable and neglected members of Haitian society. The organization is still assessing the earthquake’s damage but has already begun relief efforts for the children in Port-au-Prince and the children in its orphanages in Williamson (50 miles NW of the capital). Donations can be made through

CBM has been working in Haiti since over 30 years, since 1976, supporting those with disabilities in the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. CBM is supporting its partners who are directly involved in the search and rescue efforts, according to CBM-US CEO Ron Nabors. The immediate needs are to evacuate the injured and to provide medical supplies, food, water, and shelter. For more information or to donate, contact CBM-US.

onPhilanthropy has continued to compile resources for donors who wish to support the relief and recovery effort in Haiti. Here are a number of organizations who can accept your donation and respond promptly:

For those interested in helping immediately, simply text “HAITI” to “90999″ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.

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