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Chile earthquake relief: Cellphone donations struggle compared to Haiti

While $21 million in cellphone text-message donations poured into Haiti in the first 48 hours after the earthquake, only about $100,000 in total phone text donations have gone to Chile since the Feb. 27 earthquake.

By Correspondent / March 3, 2010

Members of the Chilean Military and volunteers load boxes with relief supplies at the airport in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a visit to deliver communication supplies to be used in the earthquake relief efforts.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP



After the Chile earthquake on Saturday, cellphone text-message donations raised merely $100,000 in the first four days following the earthquake that rocked South America’s southern coast, which pales in comparison to the $21 million in text-message donations sent to Haiti in half that period.

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Whereas $437,500 per hour in text donations poured into Haiti, less than $1,100 per hour has rolled into charities helping in Chile.

“Nothing compares to what was raised for Haiti,” says Christian Zimmern, co-founder and vice president of the Washington-based Mobile Giving Foundation, which started in 2007 and channels text-message donations to a handful of vetted Haiti and Chile charities.

IN PICTURES: Images from the magnitude-8.8 earthquake in Chile

In total since the Jan. 12 earthquake hit Haiti’s coast, Americans have donated about $41 million via text messages to the Caribbean island.

While American Idol host Ryan Seacrest and former Fugees rap star Wyclef Jean urged Americans to donate $5 and $10 amounts to Haiti relief using their cell phones, Chile isn’t getting the same attention.

“It’s all about promotion,” Mr. Zimmern said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “If you don’t get that message out to viewers, people don’t know. If Ryan Seacrest says something, or MTV is doing something on it with celebrities, that’s when you drive volume.”

Tragedies of scale

Zimmern says another factor affecting relief is the destruction. While 7.0-magnitiude Haiti earthquake killed an estimated 200,000, the 8.8-magnitude Chile earthquake killed less than 1,000 in one of the richest countries in the Western hemisphere.

“The human tragedy in Haiti was so much greater,” Zimmern says. “I don’t want to minimize the tragedy in Chile, but we’re talking about thousands dead instead of tens of thousands dead.”


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