Friday, February 5, 2010

Update on Haiti

We thought the Kiva lending community would like to see this update on Kiva's Field Partner in Haiti, Esperanza International written by Esperanza staff member Jordan Nelson.

Dear Kiva Lenders,

While it has been two weeks since a 7.1 earthquake struck Port au Prince, Haiti the destruction and loss of lives left as a result of the natural disaster is tremendous.

Kiva’s field partner in Haiti—Esperanza International has offices located in the northern part of Haiti, Trou du Nord (close to Cap Haitian), in which it is confirmed that the offices as well as all staff members were spared from harm. However, Esperanza has confirmed that two associates who were in the capital tragically lost their lives during the earthquake. In addition, 40% of Esperanza’s borrowers in the Dominican Republic are of Haitian origin and have been adversely impacted by the disaster. This link is particularly important as many of the Haitian clients in the Dominican Republic regularly send remittances to their relatives in Haiti, which will prove to be a vital lifeline to help sustain these families in the months ahead.

Clients in Haiti now more than ever face a whole new set of challenges: many associates have already and will continue to take in family members fleeing from Port-au-Prince; hundreds of borrowers cope with the emotional distress of losing family and friends; associates who once traveled frequently to the Capital as a commercial center must find news ways of obtaining necessary supplies and materials for their businesses; and many will be facing elevated prices as the supply of products is now limited and the demand is elevated, etc.

Esperanza has responded to the disaster situation at hand by working with already established partners in Port-au-Prince and southern Haiti in addition to various U.S. and Dominican organizations. It is currently in the early stages of an immediate disaster relief plan, which is targeting 10,000 families to send immediate relief to. In addition, Esperanza has collaborated with the U.S. organization, Operation Rainbow, performing around 100 surgeries to date in the border town of JimanĂ­ as well as with surgeons from Rush Presbyterian Hospital of Chicago to treat victims in Carrefour, the epicenter of the earthquake. This immediate aid will be followed by a longer-term relief process, which will focus on 5,000 families (32, 250 individuals) to provide rehabilitation to in the form of family housing, education, water/preventative health, and income generation.

With regards to the earthquakes affects on Esperanza’s microfinance operations, it is likely that in the months ahead many of Esperanza’s loans in Haiti may need to be refinanced or cancelled as clients deal with the aforementioned challenges, however, we intend to stand by our clients and continue to offer access to credit, as well as our range of complimentary services, as the situation permits. Additionally, Esperanza intends to go ahead with its long term plan of opening three more branch offices in the next three years in Haiti to expand access to credit to Haitian borrowers.

Despite the many obstacles borrowers face in the months ahead, associates have continually proven capable of overcoming adversity and showing resiliency in difficult times. They have found innovative and creative ways to create new income streams and this ability will be essential to a sustainable rebuilding process in Haiti. More than ever, micro-finance has the potential to be a vital part of this re-growth.

If you would like to learn more about Esperanza and HOPE International, or to find out ways you can help, – including their current humanitarian relief and other support efforts in Haiti – please visit their website here.

To learn about other ways you can help now, check out the BBC's website here for more information on other well-vetted organizations that you may wish to support.