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Haiti: Focus on Children

February 3, 2010

In our earlier posts, we discussed the various steps in the transition from immediate relief to recovery to longer-term impact (See: Haiti: “Cutting Through the Noise” and Haiti: Jumpstarting the Recovery).  For any donor concerned with addressing immediate suffering while also keeping an eye on Haiti’s longer term development, understanding the needs of Haiti’s children is key.

In the immediate period following emergencies, the physical safety and psychological health of children are paramount.  Veterans of disaster relief know all too well that children are vulnerable; post-disaster situations are often rife with child abduction, trafficking, sexual violence, and other physical dangers.  Equally important is the psychological toll. Aside from the physical risks, children tend to suffer more psychological trauma than adults and are often just as frightened by the reactions of the adults as they are by the actual events they have witnessed.  If not properly dealt with, this psychological trauma can have adverse affects throughout their lives, impacting their families and communities.


What is needed

For younger children, the first task is to provide safe, child-friendly play spaces.  In the case of Haiti, this involves identifying and securing areas adjacent to settlement camps where children can play safely away from adult concerns, interact with each other, and regain a sense of normalcy.  These spaces also offer opportunities for targeted post-traumatic healing, either through one-on-one interactions with counselors or through group activities. For slightly older children, it is important to set up emergency education facilities as soon as possible.  Getting school-age children back to a school-type routine is crucial for their physical safety and mental health.  Education facilities also double as places for post-traumatic healing activities and distribution points for other forms of aid, such as food/water, vaccinations, and health education. They can also serve as community centers where people gather for political and social events.

Two organizations that philanthropists can support

1.      Save the Children (see also Haiti and Katrina: Difference Donors Should Know): Successful models of emergency education and child protection involve comprehensive plans for the transition to permanent schooling. In addition, effective models plan for the sustainability of the program beyond the initial recovery phase. They do so by building local capacity and partnering with the government and organizations that will be there long-term. Save the Children is currently tasked with providing the majority of these programs in Haiti as well as developing the long-term plan for rebuilding the schools.

2.      International Rescue Committee (see also Haiti: “Cutting Through the Noise”): One example of successful emergency education took place in Aceh, Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) implemented a comprehensive plan to provide immediate child-friendly spaces and tent schools, rebuild permanent school structures, and rebuild and improve the human resource capacity of the local school district.  In its long term recovery programs, the IRC usually employs local people for 90% of its staff requirements, thus providing employment and training, building local capacity, contributing to the local economy, and ensuring greater sustainability of its programming.  In Aceh, the IRC partnered with the Indonesian government and the local university to hire replacement teachers, develop appropriate curriculum, and conduct professional development training for both veteran teachers and new recruits.  The end result is that the school system in Aceh today is much stronger than it was before the tsunami.  They are currently making plans to adapt this model to Haiti.

Thanks to CHIP team members Carol McLaughlin, Katherina Rosqueta, Katherine Summers, Kate Barrett, and Autumn Walden for supporting information.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 6:31 pm

    Dear Colleagues

    While I consider both Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee to be reputable NGOs with good performance track record on the ground, they are, like almost every organization in the relief and development industry quite weak in the area of transparency and accountability.

    They probably could be a lot more “open” or transparent than they are … but we, the public do not know … and there are no satisfactory arrangements so that we can be reliably informed. I am not naive. I know there are some financial matters that are best kept confidential. I know that accountability is potentially dangerous … I have been subjected to death threats on more than one occasion, and one of my colleagues was killed a couple of years back. But without independent accountability from the best organizations, there will never be accountability for the scammers and rip-off artists who are not an insignificant part of the sector, especially immediately post crisis when fund raising is relatively easy!

    The Community Analytics (CA) initiative is an approach to accounting and accountability that addresses some of the issues that concern the good NGO, but strong enough to make it way more difficult for the scamming operation to operate with impunity. CA is both about money flows and value flows. While it embraces the rigorous concepts of the double entry system of accounting, it also works with the important concept of materiality. The goal is not to “catch you” but merely to ensure that resource flows are getting converted into a appropriate amount of “value”.

    CA observes economic activity from the perspective of a community … where people work and live. Every good operation puts value into a community. CA learns where and how much. Quite a simple concept. Then CA wants to reconcile the total of the value delivered with the resources consumed. Again, quite a simple concept. Good organizations will have no trouble doing this … more questionable organizations will have a lot of difficulty doing this, and it reasonable that the philanthropic community should avoid them!

    I would be very happy to work with Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee in putting this analysis together. Any idea who would be the contact point for this?

    Hope this is helpful

    Peter Burgess
    Community Analytics.

  2. Caitlin permalink
    February 11, 2010 11:03 am

    Great post. These are the children’s issues we really need to care about. Check out op-ed from Dr. Irwin Redlener in yesterday’s USA Today

  3. February 11, 2010 2:46 pm

    Dear Colleagues

    The problem with the Redlener opinion piece is that the a singular focus on children is a dead end cul-de-sac. In order to children to have a future it is not just about their immediate welfare and some health and some educational initiatives, it is also about have a society where they can engage in surplus producing economic activities.

    In the Haiti situation, there is a lot to do, and, bluntly put, rather little money to do the job. Every sector and every organization is competing to get their hands on the money that is available … and it is my estimate that the money will be used between 10 times and 100 times less effectively than would be possible with a well conceived relief and development strategy.

    A process of relief and rebuilding that has a focus on getting the Haitian people to be the central resource … rather than money … will be a huge paradigm shift. Value for the Haitian population should be the goal … not high profits for US and other international contractors and their “local” partners.

    One thing that is already going wrong in Haiti is that there is very little transparency, accounting and accountability. There has been a fairly good accounting for the money appealed for, and the money raised … but the accounting for the way the money is used is conspicuous by its absence. There are a good number of initiatives to encourage accountability by well meaning groups … but the people who are making the decisions and are thriving under a regime of un-accountability are in the big league, while the accountability players are only in the pee-wee league.

    The academic and intellectual community has not engaged seriously around the issues of socio-economic relief and development progress and performance … not a new problem, it goes back a very long time … and as a result the methodology being used to understand the dynamic of relief and development is inefficient, that is, high cost and producing inconclusive conclusions that have value in the classroom for discussion but not much value in the field where people are poor, sick, hungry and opportunity-less!

    Community Analytics (CA) is all about the metrics for socio-economic progress and performance. The expectation is that a community will progress and that there will be a high performance. The question is how to do it so that the progress and the performance are as good as they can be. CA provides data so that decision makers might move to achieve progress, and then provides data about how well the community is doing relative to this. Simple ideas, and a simple framework.

    The base technology for data acquisition is the cell phone and text messages. The organization of the data is similar to accounting … but about both money and value rather than just money. The focus is on the community rather than an organization, a sector or a project.

    I like to see sector focus, or theme focus enthusiasm … and CA has modules to get sector and theme expertise so that there are data to get these as good as they can be … but not in a silo, as part of an integrated whole.

    We are working to get CA to be used in the Haiti relief and rebuilding process … and would like to collaborate with anyone interested. What has been done in the past is, bluntly, just not good enough!

    Peter Burgess
    Community Analytics


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