Rebuilding Haiti with no insurance help

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KAI RYSSDAL: As rescue workers in Haiti continue to search for survivors of Tuesday's earthquake, donations keep rolling in. President Obama has pledged $100 million in aid and relief. He has asked former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to help raise money. Text-message donations -- the ones that we talked about yesterday -- they've hit more than $7 million overall.

And obviously, aid's important in any natural disaster. In Haiti, even more so because they're not going to be getting much, if any, insurance money. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has more.


Jeff Tyler: Some multi-national companies and hotels operating in Haiti had insurance. Nikhil da Victoria-Lobo is with the re-insurance company Swiss Re. He says the government of Haiti will get some help as a member of the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility.

Nikhil da Victoria-Lobo: The CCRIF, as it's commonly known, actually issues an insurance policy to the government of Haiti to cover it for its emergency expenses following a natural catastrophe.

That insurance should bring Haiti about $8 million. Otherwise, insurance is fairly rare in the impoverished country.

Robert Hartwig: The average person with a home, the average business in the Port-au-Prince area, probably had no insurance whatsoever.

Robert Hartwig is president of the Insurance Information Institute. The poor quality of the local infrastructure has been an obstacle for insurers, he says. But with the help of international donors, the rebuilding of Haiti could lead to better construction standards and attract insurers.

Hartwig: If buildings are built back stronger, infrastructure is improved, there can be a budding insurance market in a country like Haiti.

Others are trying to help countries like Haiti by using micro-insurance. Michael McCord is president of the Microinsurance Centre, which works with insurance companies to reach low-income people.

Michael McCord: We're talking, you know, in the $1-2 dollars a day range. So, really very poor people getting life insurance products, term-life products, they're getting health insurance products, to cover hospitalizations and other major financial events.

Some micro-insurance organizations are already operating in Haiti. This disaster could spur more interest.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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