September 30, 2010
Haiti 2010 © Katrijn Van Giel
*The following was adapted from MSF's report, "Emergency Response After the Haiti Earthquake."
At a Glance
Breakdown of Spending
In its aftermath, the January 12 earthquake in Haiti left not only millions of dazed, injured, and displaced people but also an extensive litany of challenges for the relief effort. Although Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was already in the country, the organization nonetheless saw its own structures damaged and was stretched to its limits by the extent of the medical needs. The organization's financial resources were generously augmented by millions of individuaI donors, but the pressure on its medicaI, technicaI, and managerial staff was unprecedented.
Though the full scale of the damage took some time to reveal itself, it was clear from the outset that the medical needs were immense. Soon, though, MSF grew concerned that the funds pouring in from supporters old and new and earmarked specifically for th is emergency threatened to eclipse what MSF could foresee spending.
MSF takes the expectations of its donors seriously and, given the uncertainty about its ability to use the amounts projected to come in, decided in the days following the disaster to discontinue active fundraising for Haiti. MSF continued to welcome donations but called upon donors to support the organization by giving to the Emergency Relief Fund, which allows MSF to respond rapidly to emergencies around the globe.
Haiti 2010 © Francois Servranckx/MSF
That decision has helped MSF's ability to respond to other emergencies around the world and has not hampered its ability to respond to needs in Haiti. As of May 31, MSF had received around $122 million earmarked for emergency relief in Haiti and had spent nearly $71.5 million on assistance to the Haitian population. MSF projects that spending will reach approximately $120 million in Haiti by year's end. Any remaining earmarked funds will support MSF's ongoing commitment to the victims of the earthquake in 2011.
Examples of Activities
Among the large scope of MSF activities in Haiti, as of May 31, more than $14.6 million has been spent on surgical care for Haitians injured in the earthquake. At least $5.3 million was spent on maternal health services, which were already extremely limited before the earthquake struck. Roughly $11.3 million was spent on shelter and related items in an attempt to improve living conditions for some of the hundreds of thousands of people whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed. MSF also invested substantial amounts in other medical and relief activities, including primary care, mental health support, and provision of water and sanitation.
Operating such emergency health programs requires a range of investments. Given the devastation in Port-au-Prince and beyond, including the near-total destruction of many health centers and hospitals, nearly 30 percent of MSF's expenditures as of May 31 were devoted to logistics. This involves, but is not limited to, the rehabilitation or construction of medical facilities and the ongoing maintenance of health structures, including water and electricity provision. Without this investment, medical staff would not be able to operate. A further 16 percent of MSF's expenditures have been attributed to medical materials and supplies.
Haiti 2010 © Kadir Van Lohuizen/NOOR
Because of the large number of essential emergency workers and vast amount of relief goods brought into Haiti, transportation accounted for 23 percent of the total spending. At one point, the MSF team totaled over 3,500 Haitian and international emergency personnel-doctors, nurses, logisticians, administrators, drivers, project coordinators, and others. At the end of June, MSF still had more than 3,000 staff on the ground, over 90 percent of them Haitians. The costs related to employing personnel accounted for 28 percent of the money spent.
One immediate challenge for MSF has been to create more robust medical facilities to replace those damaged in the quake and the tented structures that have been in use up to now-a process that is well underway. There are uncertainties around the speed of reconstruction and the extent to which other organizations will remain involved. There are concerns about the continued physical exposure of so many people in Port-au-Prince and about the potential for political and criminal violence, which could be exacerbated by frustration about the slow pace of progress, particularly around shelter for the displaced. All of this has reinforced the urgency of MSF's planning and provision for the possibility of outbreaks of violence, disease, nutritional crises, and future natural disasters. MSF is immensely grateful to the millions of people around the world who have helped finance the organization's relief work in Haiti. It is already clear that MSF will be making a very substantial commitment to Haiti in the years to come.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)