The Story of a Hurricane: Local Government, NGOs, and Post-Disaster Assistance

June 01, 2020

Ben Fitch-Fleischmann and Evan Plous Kresch 


After catastrophes, international donors offering assistance must decide whether to channel their resources via the local government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). We examine how these channels differ in the timing, locations, and populations that they assist by combining data on aid received by Nicaraguan households over ten years with municipal election results and an exogenous measure of a catastrophe (Hurricane Mitch). In the short term (0-3 years post), NGOs provided aid according to hurricane severity with no evidence of political influence, while government aid allocations were unrelated to hurricane severity. Instead, the evidence suggests that short-term government aid was distributed along political lines, though in a nuanced way. The catastrophe also had long-term effects on aid, with households in the disaster area receiving significantly more aid than households in other areas from both NGOs and the government in the period 3 to 7 years after the hurricane.

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