Sunday, January 17, 2010

On charitable donations for Haiti

It occurs to me that some of my better comments appear on other blogs. Via Disqus (which will be added to my new, much-delayed blogs), here is a comment I made on Fred Wilson's blog on the big outpouring of charitable donations in response to the earthquake in Haiti:

I am curious where all of this money will go. It seems like absolutely enormous amounts of money are being raised for Haiti right now (Whole Foods has its cashiers soliciting donations, for example).

Ideally, Doctors without Borders and other respected charities will get to keep some of these donations for future disasters. There is, in a sense, an inefficient market for charity, and organizations ought to be able to keep some of the surge money they raise for future contingencies (and be honest about that). I remember the controversy after 9/11 when the Red Cross planned to use some of the huge amount of money it raised to build blood banks (if memory serves), but public outcry forced them to spend it all on 9/11, even though government aid was already flooding in. I remember hearing about the challenges the Red Cross had in trying to donate all that money.

Haiti, as a perennial failed state, presents challenges of its own. Once the survivors have been pulled from the rubble, treated and fed; once the dead have been buried -- then what?

The editorial cartoon above, by Peter Brookes, is from the Times Online.


Jens said...

With all due respect, I do not think that 9/11 and the earthquake in Haiti are comparable in any sensible way, except for the fact that they were both extremely unfortunate and sad events.
The drawing is very inappropriate and not worthy of the Times.
While you may be right that there is an excess amount of charity money flowing into the Haiti cause at the moment, I do believe that it is currently way to early to predict whether this is actually the case. We are talking tens of thousands dead, even more injured and even more people homeless.
Should we insist that we will only rebuild Haiti back to the standard it used to be before (the Times drawing sure implies that notion) or can we hope that some of these people may actually get better housing, water, sanitation etc.
Saying that Haiti is a perennial failed state and thereby more or less a lost cause seems to be rather gloomy. But since Mr "Ye We Can" still needs to prove that he actually can in the land of opportunity, perhaps we should not have high hopes in Haiti, but I beg to differ and maintain my belief in both!

DaveinHackensack said...


The relevant similarity between 9/11 and the earthquake in Haiti -- the one I brought up -- was the surge in charitable giving prompted by both, and the challenge of applying that surge money solely to the victims of the disaster.

I don't believe the Times cartoonist was suggesting what should happen in Haiti but what he thinks will happen. While expressing your hopes that Haitians end up with better housing, water, sanitation, etc, it's worth remembering that much of the infrastructure Haiti has now was built during a U.S. occupation in the early 20th century which is not fondly remembered today.

I wish Haiti and Haitians the best but the 200+ years of history since their independence have been inauspicious, to say the least.