A Haitian market seller

Insuring the uninsurable: Swiss Re breaks new ground in Haiti and Senegal

Swiss Re and its development partners are spearheading two groundbreaking new initiatives in Haiti and Senegal that show how even the world’s poorest communities can benefit from insurance protection and get back on their feet in times of hardship.

Haiti’s people are no strangers to disease and poverty. After heavy rainfall in early 2010, a sudden cholera outbreak further compounded the misery caused by the devastating earthquake a year before. Besides the loss of life, the epidemic delivered another blow to the country’s frail economy. Worse still, repeated outbreaks could jeopardize the nation’s recovery and future development.

Real-time cholera payouts for real-time need

Providing quick financial support to those affected by cholera is at the heart of a new parametric insurance policy developed by Swiss Re together with Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance organization, and the non-governmental organisation Mercy Corps. The new scheme, offered through the Microinsurance Catastrophe Risk Organization (MiCRO), will extend cholera covers to Fonkoze’s 50,000 women borrowers and their families. Policyholders will benefit from real-time payouts whenever a cholera outbreak is detected using data such as hospital admittance rates or weather factors.

Protecting crops in Senegal

Watch the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative video

A world away from Haiti’s women entrepreneurs, but equally determined to protect their incomes and livelihoods, Senegal’s smallholder farmers are among the poorest in the world. Without access to insurance, many run the risk of losing their crops and seed money during a drought. This situation has motivated Swiss Re, Oxfam America, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand the groundbreaking R4 Rural Resilience Initiative from Ethiopia to Senegal over the next five years.

R4 makes weather insurance available to poor farmers and rural households by giving them the option to pay for premiums with their labour. This innovation builds on the success of the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation (HARITA) project in Ethiopia. Swiss Re has been working with Oxfam America and other partners since 2008 to help farmers protect their crops and incomes from the impact of climate change. By 2016, over 18,000 households in Senegal are expected to have access to insurance through the R4 programme.

Strengthening resilience step-by-step

These projects are not only first steps towards strengthening the resilience of some of the world’s poorest communities, but can also serve to develop the mechanisms of a nascent local insurance market. In recognition of their innovative concepts, the Haiti and Senegal projects were featured at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative as Swiss Re and partners’ joint CGI commitments.

Swiss Re Chaiman Global Partnerships Michel Liès said: “Insurance is vital to economic growth and stability. We are delighted to work in partnership with development agencies, microfinance institutions and governments around the world to develop innovative solutions that can help impoverished people build a better future”.

Main image (this page): F Coupet/Mercy Corps
Feature image (homepage): Eva-Lotta Jansson / Oxfam America

Published 20 September 2011

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