The January 2010 earthquake that plunged Haiti deeper into poverty and the accompanying rush of nongovernmental organizations to the Caribbean nation — a situation that further solidified Haiti’s unflattering reputation as a “republic of NGOs” — have become the dominant narrative surrounding the tiny country, already one of the world’s poorest nations even before the earthquake struck, in the past few years.
10-year-old Mame Roudline sits beside an American Red Cross vehicle
delivering first aid and supplies to the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
That Haiti has been viewed in such light is unfortunate, given the significant strides it has achieved in certain education and health indicators after the earthquake.
Still, available numbers support the claim that Haiti is indeed teeming with NGOs. A 2010 study found that Haiti had effectively substituted its weak state institutions with a cottage industry of NGOs even before the earthquake hit: NGOs were running 70 percent of health care and 85 percent of national education services.
But the ubiquity of NGOs became even more apparent after the earthquake. According to Haiti Aid Map, a mapping initiative that monitors the Haiti projects of members of InterAction, a network of international NGOs based in the United States, 42 groups are currently reporting 171 active projects in Haiti. Members submit information to NGO Aid Map on a voluntary basis so projects noted may only represent a portion of a group's work.
For many of these projects, the timelines are long, with some going beyond 2020. The drawn-out end dates for these activities seem to suggest that Haiti has progressed from relief to recovery — an extended process that could take years to finish.
Weaning itself off NGO dependence would be a difficult feat for Haiti, a complicated task that would involve the committed participation of state and nonstate actors. But in the meantime, global development groups in the Caribbean nation could work toward this goal by strengthening governance — one of the areas where current Haiti projects are focused.
Below, we describe the activities of the organizations with the most projects according to the Haiti Aid Map, as well as the work of a few groups with job openings listed on Devex. While our previous list focused on larger and more prominent agencies, the list below includes lesser-known organizations that are nevertheless doing or at least supporting important work — through on-the-ground operations or partnerships — in Haiti.
AJWS, which has supported grass-roots organizations in Haiti since 1999, used emergency relief grants to provide food and water, among other necessities, immediately after the 2010 earthquake. It also uses grants to mobilize democracy and governance, economic development, and agriculture. Today, AJWS has 10 projects in Haiti covering these same areas.
For more than a decade, American Red Cross has been working on the ground in Haiti. Today, it has 22 Haiti projects focusing on health, WASH, and shelter and housing. Among these activities is a youth development program for those aged 10 to 25 in both Cité Soleil and Martissant, two of Haiti’s poorest neighborhoods.
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
While arriving relatively late in Haiti — it started working in the country in 2008 — the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is a small but significant organization that has been involved in both relief and recovery work. Its food-for-work project involves the participation of locals — more than 325 Haitians, according to the organization — who receive food by cleaning the streets. More long-term programs, meanwhile, include sending doctors to train abroad for better service in Haiti hospitals.
An international development firm, Creative is currently looking for a deputy chief of party for an anticipated project that will be funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The project will help USAID provide the training needed to improve reading and writing in Haitian Creole and French among primary schoolchildren.
In 1991, EDC started its work in Haiti by working to improve learning outcomes in Creole and mathematics. More than a decade after it began its work, the organization included civic education and environmental issues in the curriculum and targeted at-risk and out-of-school youth. Currently, EDC has an opening for a senior education and training specialist.
Food for the Poor
Food for the Poor has been in Haiti since 1986, also the year then-President Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown. The organization’s longtime familiarity with Haiti enabled it to quickly respond to the immediate needs of Haitians when the 2010 earthquake struck. Currently, Food for the Poor has 12 Haiti projects in education, agriculture and WASH.
An online fundraising platform that works with partner organizations in Haiti, GlobalGiving has supported 50 Haiti projects that span health, education, and economic recovery and development — including a deworming initiative for children.
Life for Relief and Development’s projects in Haiti are centered on providing food aid, promoting WASH and improving safety nets. Much of the organization’s work is concentrated in Cité Soleil, Delmas and Carrefour. In Ouest, it has also set up small shops where Haitians can buy food at cheaper prices.
Operating in Haiti for at least 30 years, MSH has a few but nevertheless major health projects in the country. One of these is its supply chain management system, which delivered medicine kits and other supplies to 16 hospitals and 14 clinics in Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
With more than 2,000 nationals and just over 100 international staff working in Haiti as of 2013, MSF has had a significant presence in the country. Since 1991, or the year MSF started working in Haiti, the organization has assisted in bridging the health gap by providing much-needed emergency care and health services to Haitians. Health care in Haiti is largely privatized, putting those who can’t afford to pay at a severe disadvantage.
Mennonite Central Committee
MCC is busy addressing the causes of the high death toll from the earthquake — unsafe building practices and a densely populated Port-au-Prince. It also currently has projects involving education, WASH, and democracy and governance. According to the organization, around $2 million will be spent on Haiti this year and beyond.
RTI is currently looking for a monitoring and evaluation manager for a large value chain and enterprise development project in Haiti. The project aims to boost employment in Haiti by supporting small businesses in construction, textiles and agribusiness.
Salvation Army World Service Office
Economic recovery, safety nets and humanitarian aid are the main priorities of the Salvation Army’s projects, which are concentrated in Fonds-des-Nègres. Like many groups in Haiti, TSA first focused on emergency response, but soon looked toward more long-term programs. A pipeline project, for instance, aims to provide permanent housing as well as training to families, whom TSA hopes will be encouraged to rebuild and settle outside disaster-prone Port-au-Prince.
Save the Children has been working in Haiti since 1978. An overview of its progress report, released in time for the five-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, shows that in the first year after the earthquake, Save the Children reached around 348,000 people with WASH programs. Currently, it is looking to fill a position for a field office WASH manager who will oversee the day-to-day operations of an urban sanitation project in Jacmel and work with local organization CRESFED.
The regions in which World Vision operated in when the earthquake hit Haiti had already been prone to food scarcity. Poor crops and dismal market conditions were the culprit behind the persistent problem — an issue World Vision has been addressing through its work. Economic recovery, WASH and education are the core priorities of World Vision’s projects in Haiti.