Disasters often capture our attention and stimulate a need and urgency to respond. How we choose to help is crucial to the alleviation of the affected areas. It is important that well intended support answers actual needs on the ground, hence engaging in a more coordinated and effective approach towards disaster relief efforts is highly encouraged. This document is a guideline providing and equipping those who wish to assist with the knowledge and tools needed to practice efficient disaster relief.

1. Ensure Needs Are Well Identified | Collection of goods prior to proper assessment of needs often lead to unnecessary or misused of products that may not match the specific needs of the affected communities. It is highly encouraged that you avoid taking specific initiatives until you acquire formal assessments from the government, a local organization and/or institution that have already established relationships on the ground.

2. Work Within the System / Avoid Bypassing Local Institutions | Operate under the guidance of local government officials and/or with organizations that understand the needs and already have systems in place on the ground. Bypassing the institutions weakens their ability to provide the needed services to the affected communities.

3. Raise/Give Cash and Give Locally | Best practices for disaster relief have shown that funds, instead of goods, can get to affected communities quicker and are more cost-effective. It also responds to the greatest need of the moment. While collected goods can be costly to transport, fail to fulfill the specific needs, prevent needed goods from getting where they need to go. Most importantly, they undermine the local economy.

4. Identify Best Volunteer Opportunities | It is important that the volunteer and the needs of the organization or institution complement each other. Identify organizations that need or solicit your skill sets. Like unsolicited collected goods, untrained volunteers can clog the system and undermine the work of established relief organizations. If you do complement a need, make sure your contribution is necessary, your arrival is known beforehand, and the logistics surrounding your trip are coordinated in advance (i.e. transportation, lodging, and access to food/water).

5. Avoid Working Alone | Aim to collaborate with other groups desiring to help in order to avoid the duplication of efforts and increase productivity for those on the ground. Remember, the goal is efficient coordination for effective responses.

6. Avoid Reinventing the Wheel | There is nothing new under the sun as there is no shortage of existing organizations in Haiti. Find ways to collaborate with existing institutions and/or organizations on the ground.


The Embassy of Haiti in Washington DC stands ready to offer guidance and serve as a resource to all who desire to contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti for a more coordinated, efficient and strategic approach towards Hurricane Matthew post-disaster responses. We can be reached on our hotline at (202) 302 – 4436.