Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 15:56 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 15:56 | SYDNEY

Haiti and Sumatra compared


Sam Roggeveen


18 January 2010 16:15

To get a sense of how desperate things are in Haiti at the moment, recall Peter McCawley's advice on aid efforts in response to last September's Sumatra earthquake — get cash in fast:

The traditional approach of many aid agencies is to provide aid in-kind (food, clothes, tents, medicines). Certainly, aid in-kind is often useful. However, one of the lessons learnt from recent disasters is that the provision of cash is often just as helpful and can be provided much faster. The regional economy of West Sumatra around Padang is well developed. Many goods urgently needed are available from nearby. If survivors of the Padang earthquake disaster are promptly provided with cash assistance, they will be able to buy many of the things they need. 

Judging by this FT report, that logic doesn't apply to Haiti, since there's little for any of the survivors to buy:

Reports from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, which felt the full force of Tuesday’s magnitude 7 earthquake, pointed to growing desperation in the city, with people wandering the streets searching for water, food and medical help.

“Money is worth nothing right now; water is the currency,” one foreign aid worker told Reuters.