After the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many foundations have stepped forward with a wide range of funding and assistance. The Council on Foundations lists more than 100 diverse grantmakers who have helped in Haiti. The site describes efforts by various types of foundations, as well as by corporate donors, including Amgen, Baxter International, Glaxo SmithKline, and Medtronic.
Yet another powerful earthquake (magnitude 8.8) hit Chile in late February 2010. The Council on Foundations’ United States International Grantmaking project has also developed a Web page on “Responding to the Earthquake in Chile.” GrantWatch will be following the response of foundations to this devastation.
Haiti Lessons for Funders
Susan Sayers, vice president of institutional partnerships at Partners In Health (PIH), gave one of the plenary addresses at Grantmakers In Health’s (GIH’s) annual meeting, held in Orlando, Florida, in March 2010. She described the work of PIH in Haiti to a large number of foundation staffers gathered. The nonprofit organization began with one small clinic in the island nation, she said, and now it has ten sites there.
PIH, which aims to provide high-quality health care and to also address other underlying issues in Haiti (where it has been working for more than twenty years) works in close partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health. The nonprofit also is now helping displaced Haitians who are living in “sheet cities” after the earthquake. Its mobile clinics that provide primary care, HIV/AIDS tests, and disease treatment are helping this population.
As a result of the earthquake, an estimated 230,000 people died (this is more than in the tsunami back in 2004, Sayers noted). Included in that count of 230,000 were 150 nursing school instructors and students who perished at the state nursing school. Many earthquake survivors are amputees, she explained.
Short-term needs in Haiti include shelter and sanitation in Port-au-Prince (with an eye to Haiti’s upcoming rainy season), rehabilitative care for survivors, and what to do now with the more seriously ill and injured people who were treated on the USNS Comfort.
There are also medium- and long-term needs in Haiti. These include getting the government of Haiti “back on its feet” (it even lacks laptop computers, Sayers commented); rebuilding medical specialties, such as mental health care, which was available only for the wealth even before the tragic earthquake; and strengthening the public health system.
Sayers then mentioned several ways philanthropy could help Haiti.
- Provide flexible funding in this acute phase after the earthquake, such as funds for general operating costs and staffing, which some foundations may not usually fund.
- Support groups that include local partnerships and experience.
- Support programs that are accountable and transparent to the Haitian government and its people.
- Support projects that address poverty in Haiti—for example, by hiring Haitians if possible.
In concluding, Sayers reminded grantmakers that the world’s attention is on Haiti as it has never been before. Because of the increased attention and resources going to Haiti, there is now an opportunity to help the nation markedly improve its health care system.
Foundation Giving for Haiti
I list here a selected sampling of Haiti funding efforts by grantmakers in the United States that fund in health-related areas.
The Atlantic Philanthropies announced that it would be making a grant of $250,000 to Global Links, a nonprofit that recovers surplus medical supplies form hospitals in the United States and redistributes them overseas to help low-income people. Atlantic made a second grant of $250,000 to Partners in Health, for its relief efforts. The foundation said that Partners in Health “is mobilising resources both for immediate aid and long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.”
The Baxter International Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Baxter International Inc. (the health care company), has approved $350,000 in grants “to support both immediate, acute-care and longer-term needs of the region.” The majority of those funds will go for health-related efforts. Grantees include CARE and Project HOPE. The foundation also has activated its Employee Disaster Relief Matching Gift Program. Spokesperson Elaine Salewske noted to Health Affairs that “disaster relief funding is not within the foundation’s regular guidelines.” Established in 1981 and based in Deerfield, Illinois, the foundation focuses its work on helping organizations “increase access to healthcare in the United States and around the world,” according to its Web site. Increasing access to care “particularly for the disadvantaged and underserved—in and near communities where Baxter employees live and work” is of particular interest to the foundation.
The Ford Foundation announced a $250,000 grant to the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative. (Former president Bill Clinton started this nonprofit focused on global health.) Ford mentions in a press release that Haiti has “one of the highest HIV infection rates” outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Ford’s grant aims to ensure continuation of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services in the Caribbean nation following the earthquake; such efforts will be especially suited to crisis conditions. Luis Ubinas, Ford’s president, said in the release, “It is essential that HIV treatment is integrated into the crisis response. Emerging from this tragedy we have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to build a strong and effective system of prevention and treatment that endures for the future.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it had awarded two grants for immediate needs and medium-term needs of people affected by the earthquake. The foundation awarded a $1 million grant to Catholic Relief Services for its initial relief services. Gates also awarded a $500,000 grant to Partners in Health for provision of medical care and essential items, including medical supplies and water.
Health Net Foundation, with a contribution of $50,000 to Project Medishare for Haiti, is adding to employees’ donations to that organization, which was founded “to provide continuing medical care in the Central Plateau, one of the poorest regions in Haiti.” Health Net Foundation, located in Woodland Hills, California, is the philanthropic arm of Health Net Inc.—one of the nation’s largest publicly traded managed care companies. The funder’s mission “is to serve as a resource to improve people’s health in the underserved communities” that Health Net serves.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced that it has contributed $500,000 to the Salvation Army for its “on-the-ground efforts to bring medical care, food, fresh drinking water and other much needed supplies to the affected region.” The foundation has been monitoring the situation in Haiti and expected to “provide an additional $1.5 million in support as those needs emerge.” The RWJF is also matching contributions of its staffers to the American Red Cross’s relief effort, the announcement said. A spokesperson for the foundation told Health Affairs, “While the foundation is exclusively focused on domestic funding, there have been unique circumstances, such as the 2004 tsunami, where the [RWJF] board made special dispensation for relief funding.”
Kaiser Permanente has contributed $500,000 to four key organizations on the ground in Haiti: Doctors Without Borders, Relief International, Operation USA, and MedShare International. Read Kaiser Permanente’s blog, “Dispatches from Haiti.” The blog lets Kaiser physicians and nurses who are trained in disaster relief and have gone to Haiti share their experiences.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced in a March 11, 2010 press release that it is investing nearly $2.2 million to support relief and reconstruction in Haiti. It is awarding four grants focused on long-range needs in the health and communications areas. One of the grants goes to Partners In Health, which “will build and staff a full-service clinic and hospital to serve about 500 patients a day in Mirebalais, which is experiencing an influx of displaced persons from Port-au-Prince,” the release said. PIH will also use the money for medical and nursing training to fill a gap created when the earthquake destroyed a hospital in Port-au-Prince. MacArthur noted that PIH’s founder, Paul Farmer, is a former MacArthur Fellow.
Another MacArthur grant went to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for refurbishing and upgrading a maternity unit to meet the needs of a population of nearly 250,000. (An important segment of this population is living in temporary settlements, a UNFPA spokesman explained.) Attached to the Croix de Bouquets health center, the unit will be upgraded to provide comprehensive maternal and newborn care services, including safe delivery and emergency obstetric and neonatal care, including cesarean sections, he said. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), through its assistance to the Haitian society of obstetricians and gynecologists, is also contributing to this effort.
The Regence Foundation, based in Portland, Oregon, has donated $50,000 to Medical Teams International, a humanitarian aid organization that dispatches teams of physicians and trained volunteers to provide medical assistance throughout the world. The foundation is the corporate foundation of Regence, the largest health insurer in the Northwest/Intermountain region of the United States and a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The grantmaker’s primary geographic funding area spans Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Mark Ganz, president and chief executive officer of Regence BlueCross BlueShield, said in a press release that “especially at times like these, I am reminded that we are part of a closely connected global community.” He added that the mission of Medical Teams International—providing care to those in need—“aligns with our own focus, and supporting the organization’s efforts is the ideal way to assist those struck by this tragedy.”
Further Reading on Haiti
Read an interview in Health Affairs with Paul Farmer, who cofounded Partners In Health. Farmer discusses “the state of global health and the interplay between equity, and political economy” with physician and George Washington University professor Fitzhugh Mullan, who is also a Health Affairs contributing editor.
Read about what Project HOPE has been doing to help in Haiti. (Project HOPE is the publisher of Health Affairs and is a nonprofit humanitarian and global health education organization.) Volunteer doctors and nurses from Massachusetts General Hospital and other locations served with HOPE aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort. HOPE has launched a blog about experiences in helping Haitians following the earthquake.