Geography Publication: Informal Material Aid & the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Posted on January 14th, 2014 by

A displaced persons camp in Port-au-Prince one month after the 2010 earthquake.

A displaced persons camp in Port-au-Prince one month after the 2010 earthquake.

My study of how friends and family provided material assistance to survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and how formal disaster aid groups might learn from these informal sector aid systems, is now available online (for free, for now) from the Overseas Development Institute. A summary of the study is below.


Formal and informal material aid following the 2010 Haiti earthquake as reported by camp dwellers

January 2014
Anna Versluis
Disasters Volume 38 Supplement 1


Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, more than two million people moved to temporary camps, most of which arose spontaneously in the days after the earthquake. This study focuses on the material assistance people in five Port-au-Prince camps reported receiving, noting the differences between assistance from formal aid agencies and from ‘informal’ sources such as family. Seven weeks after the earthquake, 32% of camp dwellers reported receiving no assistance whatsoever; 55% had received formal aid, typically a tent or tarpaulins; and 40% had received informal aid, usually in the form of cash transfers from family living abroad. While people were grateful for any material aid, cash was more frequently considered timely and more effective than aid-in-kind. Should this study be indicative of the greater displaced population, aid agencies should consider how they might make better use of cash transfers as an aid modality.


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