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Changing Responses to the Haiti Earthquake

An Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis study
January, 2012

When a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, an estimated 220,000 people died, and a further 1.5 million people were displaced. The earthquake greatly disrupted the markets upon which the lives and livelihoods of earthquake survivors depended.

This case study looks at the EMMA that was undertaken in Haiti three weeks after the earthquake and the emergency responses implemented as a result by both the IRC and Oxfam. The EMMA toolkit is still relatively young. Gathering implementation information, lessons learned and best practices is crucial in the drive to hone and improve the tool, to adapt it to the needs of the humanitarian sector as well as to increase its effectiveness in supporting better humanitarian responses. This case study is part of the ongoing documentation, assessment and development of the EMMA toolkit.

The EMMA found that, because markets were functioning, cash was an appropriate and relevant mechanism for distributing aid and boosting the purchasing power of the affected population. Yet, markets were partially disrupted. This meant that a host of interventions were devised that aimed to shore up and reinforce the market systems. EMMA resulted in innovative programming, from many of the agencies within the team and those operating in Haiti in general. For the IRC, resulting programming included a cash-for-work program focused on preparing IDP camps for the rainy season, while for Oxfam, a range of programs was designed, each targeting a different segment of the population. For example, very poor households with limited work capacity received hot meals and unconditional cash grants, while larger grocery stores received grants and loans for business investment and in-kind infrastructural support.

The assessment team was strong, worked well together and enabled inter-agency coordination. The findings facilitated advocacy with both the government and among NGOs. The assessment has added value to emergency programming in Haiti by reducing assumptions about cash programming, markets and their capacity and ability to provide support to disaster affected people, fostering innovative programming, contributing directly to the response strategy and program design and clarifying the affected population's preferences for assistance. At the same time, high turnover and no specific EMMA follow up meetings meant that the interagency potential was somewhat lost. In addition, because of mismatched timing with complementary assessments, no updated household profile information was available, and therefore not possible to estimate confidently how much purchasing power had been affected. Finally, the assessment's inclusive and rather broad scope highlighted the need to have better demarcation of the sectors within the assessment team and to clarify the objectives of each sector so that time and money are not wasted.

Report authors: 
Carol Brady
Download Report (894.05 KB pdf)