Disaster in Haiti: Out of the rubble
It is heartening in the midst of disaster to witness the massive groundswell of concern and support for the embattled victims. The outpouring of support, tangible and ethereal, is a testament to universal camaraderie and compassion.
Most certainly, immediate emergency aid, shelter, and food and water are essential. Our Canadian government has generously offered to match Canadian donations to recognized NGO's. In the short term, this will have considerable impact and save lives.
However, we must also think out of the emergent box. How can we enhance economic viability and recovery, especially of the poorest? Fortunately, we have at hand a most powerful yet underutilized tool- microcredit, small loans to the most economically disadvantaged.
The Grameen Foundation, modeled after it's mentor and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, has a strong and vibrant partner fully operational in Haiti. Fonkoze has an established and excellent track record in this poorest of nations, having created special microcredit programs to rebuild after the devastation caused by the trio of hurricanes in 2008. With small loans from $20 to a few hundred dollars, families can bring themselves out of the depths of disaster with a modicum of dignity and self-esteem, and rebuild their homes, businesses and lives.
The World Microcredit Project has reached well over 100 million of the world's poorest, with repayment and success rates that are the envy of our financial institutions. So far, our international development agency CIDA has been behind the curve with these powerful little loans, with less than 1% of their portfolio directed to microcredit. Now would be the opportune time to ramp up this funding and for CIDA to commit an additional 2-4% of it's budget in a concerted effort to bring the poorest around the world, and particularly in Haiti, a few rungs up the ladder out of abject poverty and devastation.
~Dr. Robert C Dickson, Calgary