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Notes from discussion re: Haiti

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  • Holden Karnofsky
    I recently spoke with someone who had worked as a technical consultant in the Haiti relief effort - I can t reveal his identity and had to withhold notes from
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 24, 2011
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      I recently spoke with someone who had worked as a technical consultant in the Haiti relief effort - I can't reveal his identity and had to withhold notes from the specific group he worked with, but here are the general notes that he said it would be OK to publish.
      • Not many opinoins on specific orgs, didn't see much to make an assessment of that.
      • MSF [Doctors Without Borders] is a bunch of different MSF's - MSF USA, MSF France, etc. It's important to distinguish.
      • The quality of medical care was probably fine, but too expensive. There's a "whatever it takes" attitude that I find a bit much - sending a kid to Boston for surgery when half these people don't have food.
      • Didn't they cut off the food after like 2 rations for non-financial reasons?  Yeah they were tryign to discourage people from moving into Port-au-Prince which was a very bad place to be.  They wanted them out in the countryside.  The food rations were fine on calories, but they've had issues getting people enough protein.
      • You know who was really good? The U.S. military. They had this "we're here to help" attitude. They did all kinds of miscellaneous stuff for us.
      • What do you think about Direct Relief International (DRI)?  I can't tell whether what's needed is more supplies.  I never saw DRI but some of those orgs, the enabling orgs, were pretty good. MMRC sort of ran the logistics, if you needed something you'd call them up. They were hugely helpful. Their expenses were like $5k/mo and they should have had more. Logistics atre a pretty important part of a lot of these things working. You need fuel. Moving stuff through customs is unimaginably horrible.  Having one group that does a lot of it and gets good at it is really helpful.
      • What's the holdup on the rubble removal?  Corruption is so bad. There was a big, good private company pissed because nobody knew who owned the rubble so they couldn't go forward with removal. To be honest a lot of the aid orgs are sick of dealing with the people in Haiti. People said they've never been anywhere so nasty - they say things like "we won't eat rice, we know our rights, we want chicken." They feel everything is owed to them. Haiti is expensive for such a poor country. Prices are more than in the U.S., marked up for import dues. No feeling of "let's try to help the aid orgs because they're here to help us." 
      • All the reports I read say that there needs to be more local participation. I keep thinking everyone agrees on this in concept, there must be a reason there isn't so much local participation, and it might be that locals aren't always so helpful. Both sides are sort of right. You can't be that effective without local help, and the locals aren't helpful.
      • 7 families own almost everything in haiti.
      • Do you think we'd be seeing better results with more $? I don't. Amputating is one thing, but cat scans for babies - this is not sustainable. Programming to build the economy is the only hope but that's the hardest sector of course.
      • It's kind of weird to hear everyone talk about rebuilding. The situation was so bad *before* the earthquake. Rebuild what?
      • I've told all my friends: don't give money to Haiti relief. Take the money elsewhere. I hear about all these unfulfilled pledges and I think "great, maybe they can put that money in a country that wants to work with people and make things happen." Mozambique is as poor as Haiti but it's a totally different feel, it's not so uncooperative.  I think you should put the money in countries where the government wants to do its part and help.



    • Phil Steinmeyer
      Depressing. It s a little tricky in the following to separate your (Holden s) views, if any, from the aid workers. I think only the bolded stuff is yours,
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 24, 2011
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        Depressing.
         
        It's a little tricky in the following to separate your (Holden's) views, if any, from the aid workers.  I "think" only the bolded stuff is yours, but you might want to be clearer.
         
        If it is acceptable with the source in question, I would encourage you to publish this stuff on your blog - that is a lot more visible, I'd imagine.
         
         
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 8:09 AM
        Subject: [givewell] Notes from discussion re: Haiti

         


        I recently spoke with someone who had worked as a technical consultant in the Haiti relief effort - I can't reveal his identity and had to withhold notes from the specific group he worked with, but here are the general notes that he said it would be OK to publish.
        • Not many opinoins on specific orgs, didn't see much to make an assessment of that.
        • MSF [Doctors Without Borders] is a bunch of different MSF's - MSF USA, MSF France, etc. It's important to distinguish.
        • The quality of medical care was probably fine, but too expensive. There's a "whatever it takes" attitude that I find a bit much - sending a kid to Boston for surgery when half these people don't have food.
        • Didn't they cut off the food after like 2 rations for non-financial reasons?  Yeah they were tryign to discourage people from moving into Port-au-Prince which was a very bad place to be.  They wanted them out in the countryside.  The food rations were fine on calories, but they've had issues getting people enough protein.
        • You know who was really good? The U.S. military. They had this "we're here to help" attitude. They did all kinds of miscellaneous stuff for us.
        • What do you think about Direct Relief International (DRI)?  I can't tell whether what's needed is more supplies.  I never saw DRI but some of those orgs, the enabling orgs, were pretty good. MMRC sort of ran the logistics, if you needed something you'd call them up. They were hugely helpful. Their expenses were like $5k/mo and they should have had more. Logistics atre a pretty important part of a lot of these things working. You need fuel. Moving stuff through customs is unimaginably horrible.  Having one group that does a lot of it and gets good at it is really helpful.
        • What's the holdup on the rubble removal?  Corruption is so bad. There was a big, good private company pissed because nobody knew who owned the rubble so they couldn't go forward with removal. To be honest a lot of the aid orgs are sick of dealing with the people in Haiti. People said they've never been anywhere so nasty - they say things like "we won't eat rice, we know our rights, we want chicken." They feel everything is owed to them. Haiti is expensive for such a poor country. Prices are more than in the U.S., marked up for import dues. No feeling of "let's try to help the aid orgs because they're here to help us." 
        • All the reports I read say that there needs to be more local participation. I keep thinking everyone agrees on this in concept, there must be a reason there isn't so much local participation, and it might be that locals aren't always so helpful. Both sides are sort of right. You can't be that effective without local help, and the locals aren't helpful.
        • 7 families own almost everything in haiti.
        • Do you think we'd be seeing better results with more $? I don't. Amputating is one thing, but cat scans for babies - this is not sustainable. Programming to build the economy is the only hope but that's the hardest sector of course.
        • It's kind of weird to hear everyone talk about rebuilding. The situation was so bad *before* the earthquake. Rebuild what?
        • I've told all my friends: don't give money to Haiti relief. Take the money elsewhere. I hear about all these unfulfilled pledges and I think "great, maybe they can put that money in a country that wants to work with people and make things happen." Mozambique is as poor as Haiti but it's a totally different feel, it's not so uncooperative.  I think you should put the money in countries where the government wants to do its part and help.



        • Phil Steinmeyer
          Also, the comment about 7 families owning everything is shortly after the comment about ownership confusion on the rubble. My initial interpretation was that
          Message 3 of 4 , Jan 24, 2011
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            Also, the comment about 7 families owning everything is shortly after the comment about ownership confusion on the rubble.
             
            My initial interpretation was that ownership in general is so confused that multiple families have claim to each rubble strewn lot.  I *think* upon further review that you're saying that 7 wealthy families that control much of Haiti.  Might just want to clarify the wording slightly...
             
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 8:09 AM
            Subject: [givewell] Notes from discussion re: Haiti

             


            I recently spoke with someone who had worked as a technical consultant in the Haiti relief effort - I can't reveal his identity and had to withhold notes from the specific group he worked with, but here are the general notes that he said it would be OK to publish.
            • Not many opinoins on specific orgs, didn't see much to make an assessment of that.
            • MSF [Doctors Without Borders] is a bunch of different MSF's - MSF USA, MSF France, etc. It's important to distinguish.
            • The quality of medical care was probably fine, but too expensive. There's a "whatever it takes" attitude that I find a bit much - sending a kid to Boston for surgery when half these people don't have food.
            • Didn't they cut off the food after like 2 rations for non-financial reasons?  Yeah they were tryign to discourage people from moving into Port-au-Prince which was a very bad place to be.  They wanted them out in the countryside.  The food rations were fine on calories, but they've had issues getting people enough protein.
            • You know who was really good? The U.S. military. They had this "we're here to help" attitude. They did all kinds of miscellaneous stuff for us.
            • What do you think about Direct Relief International (DRI)?  I can't tell whether what's needed is more supplies.  I never saw DRI but some of those orgs, the enabling orgs, were pretty good. MMRC sort of ran the logistics, if you needed something you'd call them up. They were hugely helpful. Their expenses were like $5k/mo and they should have had more. Logistics atre a pretty important part of a lot of these things working. You need fuel. Moving stuff through customs is unimaginably horrible.  Having one group that does a lot of it and gets good at it is really helpful.
            • What's the holdup on the rubble removal?  Corruption is so bad. There was a big, good private company pissed because nobody knew who owned the rubble so they couldn't go forward with removal. To be honest a lot of the aid orgs are sick of dealing with the people in Haiti. People said they've never been anywhere so nasty - they say things like "we won't eat rice, we know our rights, we want chicken." They feel everything is owed to them. Haiti is expensive for such a poor country. Prices are more than in the U.S., marked up for import dues. No feeling of "let's try to help the aid orgs because they're here to help us." 
            • All the reports I read say that there needs to be more local participation. I keep thinking everyone agrees on this in concept, there must be a reason there isn't so much local participation, and it might be that locals aren't always so helpful. Both sides are sort of right. You can't be that effective without local help, and the locals aren't helpful.
            • 7 families own almost everything in haiti.
            • Do you think we'd be seeing better results with more $? I don't. Amputating is one thing, but cat scans for babies - this is not sustainable. Programming to build the economy is the only hope but that's the hardest sector of course.
            • It's kind of weird to hear everyone talk about rebuilding. The situation was so bad *before* the earthquake. Rebuild what?
            • I've told all my friends: don't give money to Haiti relief. Take the money elsewhere. I hear about all these unfulfilled pledges and I think "great, maybe they can put that money in a country that wants to work with people and make things happen." Mozambique is as poor as Haiti but it's a totally different feel, it's not so uncooperative.  I think you should put the money in countries where the government wants to do its part and help.



            • Holden Karnofsky
              Yes, bold = what I said; non-bold = what he said. Apologies for the confusion. The quality of evidence here is below the standard I d like to maintain on our
              Message 4 of 4 , Jan 24, 2011
              • 0 Attachment
                Yes, bold = what I said; non-bold = what he said. Apologies for the confusion.

                The quality of evidence here is below the standard I'd like to maintain on our blog. At some point we may try to interview people who have seen relief efforts up close; if so, we will be somewhat systematic in choosing whom to speak to, so that our interviews can be considered somewhat representative. However, this individual sought us out; he seemed credible to me but I don't have a way of knowing whether he has an axe to grind of some sort. I thought this info was worth sharing with people who are always hungry for more info, but not promoting via our blog.

                On Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM, Phil Steinmeyer <psteinmeyer@...> wrote:
                 

                Depressing.
                 
                It's a little tricky in the following to separate your (Holden's) views, if any, from the aid workers.  I "think" only the bolded stuff is yours, but you might want to be clearer.
                 
                If it is acceptable with the source in question, I would encourage you to publish this stuff on your blog - that is a lot more visible, I'd imagine.
                 
                 
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Monday, January 24, 2011 8:09 AM
                Subject: [givewell] Notes from discussion re: Haiti

                 


                I recently spoke with someone who had worked as a technical consultant in the Haiti relief effort - I can't reveal his identity and had to withhold notes from the specific group he worked with, but here are the general notes that he said it would be OK to publish.
                • Not many opinoins on specific orgs, didn't see much to make an assessment of that.
                • MSF [Doctors Without Borders] is a bunch of different MSF's - MSF USA, MSF France, etc. It's important to distinguish.
                • The quality of medical care was probably fine, but too expensive. There's a "whatever it takes" attitude that I find a bit much - sending a kid to Boston for surgery when half these people don't have food.
                • Didn't they cut off the food after like 2 rations for non-financial reasons?  Yeah they were tryign to discourage people from moving into Port-au-Prince which was a very bad place to be.  They wanted them out in the countryside.  The food rations were fine on calories, but they've had issues getting people enough protein.
                • You know who was really good? The U.S. military. They had this "we're here to help" attitude. They did all kinds of miscellaneous stuff for us.
                • What do you think about Direct Relief International (DRI)?  I can't tell whether what's needed is more supplies.  I never saw DRI but some of those orgs, the enabling orgs, were pretty good. MMRC sort of ran the logistics, if you needed something you'd call them up. They were hugely helpful. Their expenses were like $5k/mo and they should have had more. Logistics atre a pretty important part of a lot of these things working. You need fuel. Moving stuff through customs is unimaginably horrible.  Having one group that does a lot of it and gets good at it is really helpful.
                • What's the holdup on the rubble removal?  Corruption is so bad. There was a big, good private company pissed because nobody knew who owned the rubble so they couldn't go forward with removal. To be honest a lot of the aid orgs are sick of dealing with the people in Haiti. People said they've never been anywhere so nasty - they say things like "we won't eat rice, we know our rights, we want chicken." They feel everything is owed to them. Haiti is expensive for such a poor country. Prices are more than in the U.S., marked up for import dues. No feeling of "let's try to help the aid orgs because they're here to help us." 
                • All the reports I read say that there needs to be more local participation. I keep thinking everyone agrees on this in concept, there must be a reason there isn't so much local participation, and it might be that locals aren't always so helpful. Both sides are sort of right. You can't be that effective without local help, and the locals aren't helpful.
                • 7 families own almost everything in haiti.
                • Do you think we'd be seeing better results with more $? I don't. Amputating is one thing, but cat scans for babies - this is not sustainable. Programming to build the economy is the only hope but that's the hardest sector of course.
                • It's kind of weird to hear everyone talk about rebuilding. The situation was so bad *before* the earthquake. Rebuild what?
                • I've told all my friends: don't give money to Haiti relief. Take the money elsewhere. I hear about all these unfulfilled pledges and I think "great, maybe they can put that money in a country that wants to work with people and make things happen." Mozambique is as poor as Haiti but it's a totally different feel, it's not so uncooperative.  I think you should put the money in countries where the government wants to do its part and help.




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