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Pharmaceutical and Business Leaders Focus on Haiti
One year following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the pharmaceutical industry and the business community continue to provide assistance to the country for its relief and reconstruction projects. One recent project is a partnership between Abbott and the humanitarian-relief organization Partners in Health for nutritional food support. Also, at the World Economic Forum, held in late January in Davos, Switzerland, participants outlined some of the private-sector investment being made to help improve the economic situation in the country.
Abbott and Partners in Health team
"This ambitious partnership between PIH, Abbott, and the Abbott Fund will help to address severe malnutrition in Haiti while also serving as an example of how partnerships can help to provide economic empowerment for local communities," said Paul Farmer, cofounder of PIH in an Abbott Jan.17, 2011, press release.”Abbott experts are working shoulder to shoulder with Haitian farmers and community-health workers to create local, sustainable solutions to treat malnutrition in children. By sharing the collective expertise and resources of business, nonprofit organizations, and civil society, we can help the people of Haiti build back better," he said.
The new PIH nutritional production facility will be located near PIH's main hospital in Cange in Haiti's central plateau region. The facility initially will be focused on producing Nourimanba, PIH's peanut-based, ready-to-use therapeutic food product, to treat severe childhood malnutrition. In the future, the new facility also could be used to develop and sell nonmedical nutritional foods, such as peanut butter, to support the continued production and free distribution of Nourimanba by PIH. The facility, which is expected to break ground in mid-2011 and begin operations in early 2012, will be equipped with low-maintenance equipment suited to operations in Haiti.
The new facility will be constructed by local workers. Abbott experts in nutrition science, engineering, quality, and manufacturing will join PIH staff in supporting all aspects of the project, including design and construction of the facility, product quality and safety, and expansion of production capabilities. When completed, the facility will be able to employ up to 60 Haitians to handle production. The initiative also will help expand agricultural development in the region by working with hundreds of local farmers to source peanuts, the main ingredient in Nourimanba. Nourimanba is a high-calorie, high-protein, fortified peanut-based paste that is ready to eat by the patient and does not require mixing or refrigeration. PIH and Abbott experts will conduct training to build local capabilities and develop the skills of local workers to ensure long-term sustainability.
"Severe childhood malnutrition is a complex problem in Haiti that demands innovative, local solutions," said Katherine Pickus, vice-president, the Abbott Fund, and divisional vice-president of global citizenship and policy at Abbott, in the Abbott release. "As a longstanding leader in strengthening local communities in Haiti, Partners in Health has demonstrated a strong commitment to pioneering new approaches. Abbott and the Abbott Fund look forward to working together with Partners In Health to build a new nutrition production facility, train local staff, and empower local communities to develop long-term solutions to malnutrition in Haiti."
The new initiative in Haiti is an extension of an ongoing partnership between PIH, Abbott, and the Abbott Fund to expand access to healthcare in developing countries. Projects are addressing critical community needs in Haiti and countries in Africa, which also include establishing a women's health clinic in Lascahobas, Haiti, and building a rural hospital in Lisungwi, Malawi. Since 2007, Abbott and the Abbott Fund have provided more than $48 million in grants and product donations to help address health needs in Haiti, including maternal and child health, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. In addition, Abbott and the Abbott Fund provided more than $6 million to support relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in January 2010. Most recently, Abbott has provided grant funding and donations to help address the cholera outbreak in central Haiti.
The World Economic Forum issued a report, Private Sector Development in Haiti: Opportunities for Investment, Job Creation and Growth, in partnership with the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The full report is available here. The report concluded that Haiti can achieve growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) of 6–8% during the next decade if the right public policies are put in place, the national and international private sector becomes increasingly engaged, and support from the international community is maintained.
“Despite the challenges, Haiti possesses the economic fundamentals to experience sustained growth. However, it cannot achieve it alone,” said Robert Greenhill, managing director and chief business officer, World Economic Forum, in a Jan. 28, 2011, World Economic Forum press release. “The private sector played an important and innovative role in supporting humanitarian assistance to Haiti right after the earthquake, and now it has an equally important role to play in helping Haiti achieve an accelerated economic trajectory.”
The report outlines opportunities for businesses in Haiti and measures taken to encourage private-sector engagement, such as the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). SEZS are areas identified by the government as fast-track zones for commercial development to be equipped with the infrastructure and regulatory framework to attract business. The World Bank and IFC are actively engaged with the Haitian government to improve its investment climate.
"The World Bank Group remains committed to helping Haiti catalyze private investment and improve the business environment. We are convinced that the private sector is essential for Haiti’s long-term development, to create jobs and help the country break its dependence on aid," said IFC’s Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice-President Lars Thunell, in the World Economic Forum release. "This joint report highlights the opportunities and challenges in improving Haiti's investment climate, in particular business regulation, access to basic infrastructure, logistic and financial services, and access to skills. Multilateral banks, donors, the government of Haiti, and the private sector should develop the framework that will address these challenges."
The report outlines specific areas where the private sector can become involved, highlighting opportunities in construction and infrastructure development, agriculture, manufacturing, finance, tourism, and energy. A specific example from the manufacturing sector is IDB’s recent announcement of its support, along with the US government, of a $250-million deal to develop an industrial park in northen Haiti that is expected to generate as many as 65,000 jobs.
“Haiti has countless needs, but what it desperately requires to climb out of poverty is more jobs,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno, in the World Economic Forum release. “Our goal is to persuade several companies from diverse industrial sectors to set up shop in the north, not only to boost employment and economic activity outside of Port-au-Prince but also to change common risk perceptions about Haiti, so that many more investors may follow them.”
The report also highlights examples of how international businesses are actively engaged in mutually beneficial partnerships designed to help grow Haiti’s economy. Under a public-private partnership structured by the IFC, Haiti’s government and central bank, Banque de la République d’Haiti, signed an agreement with Vietnam’s largest mobile-telephone operator, Viettel, for $99 million. The agreement has led Viettel to commit significant investments, including the construction of Haiti’s first nationwide fiber optic backbone.
Other examples of private-sector investment include: the Coca-Cola Company’s Haiti Hope project, which was launched in September 2010, with the goal of doubling the income of 25,000 Haitian mango farmers over five years. It is a partnership between the Coca-Cola Company, IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, and TechnoServe, with the support of the Clinton- Bush Haiti Fund, and other international and local organizations.
Other examples include mobile-phone operators Voila and Digicel launching mobile-banking services in an effort to maximize resources of nongovernmental organizations, bolster reconstruction efforts, and provide Haiti’s “unbanked” population access to financial services. Alhough 85% of Haitian households have access to a cell phone, there are only two banks for every 100,000 people in the country. It is hoped that mobile-money products will enable Haitians to transfer money domestically and internationally and complete commercial transactions wirelessly, including using their cell phones to purchase food and nonfood items from a network of affiliated merchants throughout the country. Voila, Haiti-based Unibank, and the international aid agency Mercy Corps have joined together to launch a mobile-banking service called T-Cash that offers beneficiaries of Mercy Corps’s cash program the opportunity to receive and make payments using their Voila phones. Digicel and Canada’s Scotiabank have partnered to create Tcho Tcho Mobile, which offers mobile-banking services that enable users to perform cash withdrawals, deposits, and transfers through their mobile phones.
Another project is from Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, which formed a partnership with Caribbean Risk Managers Limited, Guy Carpenter Micro Risk Solutions, and Haiti’s largest microfinance institution, Fonkoze, to design a micro-insurance scheme for catastrophes in Haiti. The project will allow highly vulnerable Haitians to protect themselves from natural disasters at a reasonable cost. Also, YY Haiti, an initiative of the Grameen Creative Lab, the Yunus Center, and the software and information-technology services company SAP intend to create the infrastructure and provide the skills needed for social businesses in Haiti. YY Haiti is a fund investing in social businesses in Haiti and also provides appropriate business training. YY Haiti functions as a self-sustainable social business that is financed through the management fees earned from the social businesses in which it invests. Once the social businesses have returned their initial investment, the fund reinvests this money into new social businesses. Initial social business investments include a cocoa-processing plant and an eco-hotel in Cap Haitien. Another 14 social businesses are currently in the due-diligence process.