Haiti earthquake: DEC agencies to give cash to survivors

01/02/2010

Member agencies of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) are starting to give cash to earthquake survivors in Haiti to buy much-needed supplies and boost the crippled economy.

Assessment teams from Oxfam have discovered there is enough food being produced in Haiti but hundreds of thousands of people left homeless have no money to buy it. Injecting cash into the local market will allow Haitians to buy Haitian-grown produce, giving a vital boost to the country’s economy.

The move to distribute cash is intended to complement the large-scale food distributions currently being organised by the World Food Programme.

Prospery Raymond, Haiti country manager for Christian Aid, said: “If we just hand out food that has come in from abroad, local farmers will not be able to sell their food and that will create a fresh problem for the farmers.”

DEC aid agencies say distributing cash rather than food parcels alone helps ensure that families get exactly what they need, and nothing goes to waste. Putting choice in their hands also restores dignity and sense of self-reliance after weeks of dependence on the aid community.

KORAL, a Haitian partner organisation of Christian Aid, is organising the first distribution of money to 271 families. Local communities chose the families who would receive the money. Some had lost relatives; others were looking after orphans or had been disabled.

Local organisations will give 2,000 gourdes (£30) to the families in the southern towns of Aquin and St Louis du Sud – enough to buy rations for 4-6 weeks for an average family of five.

According to Oxfam emergency expert Alexandros Yiannopoulos survivors of a natural disaster prefer money to goods or food parcels once the emergency period is over.

Amanda Weisbaum from Save the Children said: “Since we started giving cash instead of aid packages we’ve always found that people spend the money they are given responsibly. Mothers spend it on food and clothes for children, even if that means going hungry themselves.

“In Kenya during the drought of 2006 we delivered cash to families in several isolated villages. When we arrived people formed a queue and collected their cash. It was a one-off payment that got them through a very challenging time.”

Those wanting to stay up to date with developments in Haiti, the emergency response and the fundraising efforts can follow the DEC on twitter at http://twitter.com/decappeal or become a fan of ‘Disasters-Emergency-Committee-DEC’ on Facebook.

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Notes to editors:

  • To make a postal donation make cheques payable to ‘DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal’ and mail to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA
  • Donations can be made at any high street bank or at a Post Office by quoting Freepay 1449.
  • Text “GIVE” to 70077 to give £5 to the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal. £5 goes to the DEC. You pay £5 plus the standard network SMS rate.
  • The DEC consists of: Action Aid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision.
  • The DEC criteria to launch an appeal are: The disaster must be on such a scale and of such urgency as to call for swift International humanitarian assistance. The DEC agencies, or some of them, must be in a position to provide effective and swift humanitarian assistance at a scale to justify a national Appeal. There must be reasonable grounds for concluding that a public appeal would be successful, either because of evidence of existing public sympathy for the humanitarian situation or because there is a compelling case indicating the likelihood of significant public support should an appeal be launched.