Yesterday, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, with the center only less than ten miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital of the country. Of course, the news of the devastation has been everywhere in the media. Major landmarks have been destroyed by the disaster, including the Presidential Palace and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral. Haiti is a poor country and their own emergency services will not be able to handle the estimated deaths of over 100,000 persons.
Beware of unscrupulous scammers using this disaster as an opportunity to take advantage of well-meaning would-be humanitarians. Don’t respond to emails asking for donations — go directly to the organizations you trust. Donate only to well-established charities working directly in Haiti. Right now, unless you’re on a medical team planning to visit Haiti yourself, the best way to support immediate relief efforts is to donate to organizations focusing on water, food, and medical supplies.
Here are my suggestions.
On Twitter and Facebook, I have seen a number of messages suggesting people who wish to help relief efforts send a text message stating just “HAITI” to number 90999. A $10 charge will appear on your phone bill. This will function as a donation to the American Red Cross. I’m waiting for a response from the ARC to let us know how quickly they will receive donations via text message. I have confirmed the full $10 will be transferred to the organization without mobile phone companies taking a fee per message out of the donation. It’s important to know where your money is going and how fast it’s getting there. The ARC has also dedicated $1,000,000 from its International Response Fund to relief in Haiti. Donate to the American Red Cross International Response Fund here.
Update: According to National Public Radio, it could take an average of 90 days for the American Red Cross to receive funds donated via text message. If you want your donation to have an immediate effect, I suggest giving with your credit or debit card through the organization’s web site or phone service.
Update #2: Here is the official response from the American Red Cross:
100% of your text donation will support the American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti. The carriers and Mobile Accord will work to get the Red Cross these donations as quickly as possible. It can take anywhere from 60-90 days for the Red Cross to get these funds. Despite this delay in receiving funds, the American Red Cross will continue to provide relief in Haiti and these donations will cover expenses incurred after the fact.
Also, Sprint is charging normal text messaging fees for your donation while Verizon, T-Mobile and now AT&T are allowing these text messages for free.
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is responding to the destruction of hospitals and other medical facilities by setting up clinics. The city’s own resources are unequipped to deal with injuries and casualties. In the United States, first responders like firefighters, police offers, and emergency medical technicians show up almost immediately, but Haiti has no such structure. More MSF staff will be arriving in Port-au-Prince in the next few days. Donate to Doctors Without Borders here.
The World Food Programme is bringing food assistance to victims of the earthquake in Haiti. In addition to the WFP’s food stores already in Haiti, more food is arriving from El Salvador, enough to feed 30,000 people for up to seven days. Donate to the Friends of the World Food Program here.
- Comments from Haiti President René Préval
- Remarks from U.S. President Barack Obama
- Remarks from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Also, to locate American family members suspected to be missing in Haiti, call the United States Department of State at 1-888-407-4747.
Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published January 13, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.