Last week, Maria Moreno, Head of USA for IOM Operations, met virtually with IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti, Giuseppe Loprete, to discuss IOM’s ongoing emergency response for survivors displaced by the earthquake in Haiti.
Their conversation marks 1-month since a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the southern region of the country. Haiti is one of the countries most prone to natural disasters in the world. As Chief of Mission, Loprete has worked to ensure that IOM, and our partners, are prepared to respond when disaster strikes and provide long-term recovery support for affected communities.
Day Zero Operations
Hurricane season in the Caribbean lasts from June to November, and IOM, along with its government and civil society partners, has developed extensive emergency response protocols for when disaster strikes.
This preparation allowed IOM to mobilize quickly. Within 24 hours, IOM had deployed its team to distribute shelter and hygiene kits, including tarps, blankets, and personal sanitation materials, to those displaced from their homes.
Lessons Learned from 2010
After the devasting 2010 earthquake, IOM and its implementing partners dedicated themselves to preparing for the next disaster.
Haiti developed a national Civil Protection Agency with an extensive network of field officers. This infrastructure allows Haiti to quickly coordinate with state and local bodies when an emergency occurs and has made the country a regional expert in disaster response.
Meanwhile, IOM has developed mechanisms to act as a first responder to potential displacement events. In Haiti, this includes regularly running emergency operation simulations and mapping shelters and other life-saving resources.
Another lesson learned from the 2010 earthquake was the importance of building and maintaining trust to humanitarian operations. For IOM, this begins with respecting local knowledge and systems already in place by the government, local associations, NGOs, and community leaders.
Without these partnerships, IOM would be unable to help those most vulnerable. Loprete explains the reach of IOM, saying, “we cannot stop where the paved road stops. We have to go beyond that. Once we reach those that we think are the most vulnerable, we usually get there and they say to us, ‘no, you have to go further, there are people over there who are worse off.”
Overlapping Crises Demand Urgent Action
Providing shelter is currently IOM’s top priority. Many still do not have a roof over their heads as their homes are being assessed for structural integrity.
IOM is working to avoid the prolonged displacement experienced in the wake of past disasters and is dedicated to supporting survivors throughout recovery efforts in the coming months and even years.
“Haiti is facing multiple crises,” reports Loprete, including a global pandemic, seasonal hurricanes, and institutional and political crises. He emphasized that this is a moment when we need everyone to come together to do more than recover but to build resilience to face the next crisis.
How to Make a Difference
IOM has already distributed 150,000 relief items to 61,000 families in Haiti. Currently, IOM is working to bring these materials the ‘last mile’ to those in the most remote regions who need them most. You can help by donating to organizations that are working with local partners to lead a sustainable recovery.
If you would like to support the work UN Migration, please donate here: https://usaforiom.org/fundraising-haiti/.
For more live updates on IOM’s work responding to global crises, tune in next month for more from USA for IOM’s new series, From the Field.
I know I’m not alone when I say that this week has been a heavy one. Leading up to this year’s #worldhumanitarianday, and in the wake of recent events in Haiti and Afghanistan, USA for IOM team and I have been reflecting on how fundraising can enhance its impact through proactive, sustainable investment in development.
It is important to note that while last week’s events were sudden, they were not entirely unpredictable. Sitting on a fault-line in the Caribbean, #Haiti is vulnerable to disasters. What makes this event truly devastating is the underlying social and economic instability that will, in all likelihood, prevent a speedy recovery. We are deploying trucks with food and tents to communities still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake. And the myriad challenges facing #Afghanistan, which has suffered governance, socio-economic, and development challenges as a result of decades of conflict, are similarly structural and historic.
In responding to these crises, I often feel we are putting bandages on bullet holes. We can take comfort in the Talmudic proverb, “whoever saves one life, saves the world entire,” I feel as though launching emergency relief responses to predictable crises reveals the Sisyphus complex of the philanthropic sector.
To break free from this cycle, we in philanthropy must be proactive and truly start to use our platform and our tools to engender a world that is not less prone to crises, but one with the social and economic fortitude to be more resilient to them. We must focus on the transformation the world needs beyond the crisis du jour and then focus our resources on proactive solutions.
In a way, this also helps answer another question: how do we prioritize emergency responses? When disaster strikes it’s easy to mobilize action for a cause. But once the faces of distant suffering fade from the frontpages, action too begins to wane. In the past I’ve found myself reaching for a bigger, louder bullhorn, feeling the need to scream “look over here, look over there, we still need you here!”
I believe that by shifting philanthropy to focus on addressing the roots of an issue—the systemic challenges that underpin human suffering–we can avoid the pressure to see humanitarian needs as competing, and instead view them as simultaneous. If funders make not only deep but longstanding investments in a cause or region maybe it will relieve the anxiety the fundraising community feels to fight for attention. Moving forward, I want to learn how I, my team as agents to support development and human mobility, can cultivate and encourage that level of donor dedication long before the needs are urgent.
I encourage comments on: How can philanthropy transform our world? What’s the strategy to this game of whack-a-mole? Is it possible to “care” about everything all at once? And how can we translate care into effective, sustained action? #philanthropy