Since the outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the COVID-19 has been sweeping across the world causing millions of infections and thousands of deaths (WHO, 2020). It has created a world health emergency. Given the travel and mobility restrictions imposed world-wide to curb the spread of the virus, the pandemic offers an opportunity to discuss the humanitarian aid systems, and specifically, the localization of the agenda. By using the case of Haiti, this research aims to reflect on the emergent tensions between the different responses to the health crisis given by ‘local actors’: the top-down measures implemented by the government and the bottom-up responses from local leaders, communities and organizations. The methodology we used was a secondary sources review (academic papers, reports, news articles, social media publications and blogs) that was complemented by three semi-structured interviews conducted with key local actors (a health professional in Les Cayes, a project manager that works in an NGO in Port-au-Prince, and a physician in Port-au-Prince). Most of the information was collected during June and August 2020, with a minor update in January 2021. With the research we found that the measures implemented by the government, even though following international recommendations and protocols, were not tailored for the Haitian context and therefore, they affected Haitian livelihoods in several ways. Moreover, the existent tension and mistrust of the people on the authorities complicated the implementations of the measures and created negative responses (denial, resistance, sabotage, etc.) among the population. Nevertheless, several bottom-up initiatives emerged directly from the communities to help the people to deal with the health emergency and to cope with the government measures, and they proved to have a significant role in the crisis management. We conclude that the localization of aid is more necessary than ever, but it needs to be done with a proper problematization of what ‘local actor’ means: it could involve different types of people, leaders, and organizations; and not in all cases the nation-states could be considered the most important one of them.

Haiti, COVID-19, localization, humanitarian aid, resistance, disbelief, frugal innovation, disaster response, state-society
ISS Working Papers - General Series
ISS Working Paper Series / General Series
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Fujita, Y, & Sabogal Camargo, A.M. (2021). Perspective of localization of aid during COVID-19 : Reflecting on the tensions between the top-down and bottom-up responses to the health emergency in Haiti (No. 673). ISS Working Paper Series / General Series (Vol. 673). Retrieved from