What’s the Best Way to Give to Haiti?

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In the days since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, you have likely been inundated with requests to give money and/or various forms of supplies in order to support the victims of this natural disaster. The response from the American public, and from Jews in particular, has been great. But the more I read about giving to Haiti, the more confused I am about what’s really the best course of action.

First, I read an article provocatively titled, Don’t Give Money to Haiti. I encourage you to go read the whole article, but here are some highlights:

For one thing, right now there’s very little that can be done with the money. There are myriad bottlenecks and obstacles involved in getting help to the Haitians who need it, but lack of funds is not one of them. For the next few weeks, help will come largely from governments, who are also spending hundreds of millions of dollars and mobilizing thousands of soldiers to the cause. But with the UN alone seeking to raise $550 million, it’s going to be easy to say that all the money donated to date isn’t remotely enough.

The last time there was a disaster on this scale was the Asian tsunami, five years ago. And for all its best efforts, the Red Cross has still only spent 83% of its $3.21 billion tsunami budget — which means that it has over half a billion dollars left to spend. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s money which could be spent in Haiti, if it weren’t for the fact that it was earmarked.

The gist of the article seems to be that if you feel like giving now, give to a sound charitable organization, and do not restrict your donation.

Then there’s a response creatively titled Felix Salmon is Wrong; We SHOULD Give Money to Haiti. Highlights:

Just because all the money cannot be employed immediately doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give now. To wait is to run the risk that public attention will move on to other causes, and in the end there wouldn’t be sufficient money for the sustained effort that Haiti needs. Various organizations will employ the donations as they can. I discussed this issue with my colleague Steven Wheeler, who directs the NYSE Euronext Foundation, and he pointed out: “There is relief, and then there is recovery.” After the emergency, there is infrastructure to be rebuilt — roads, schools, medical facilities, sanitation systems — a process that will take years and continued effort.

Posted on January 21, 2010

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