The situation in Haiti is the worst I have seen for some years. For over 30 years I have worked in the frontline in times of major disasters, and you get so frustrated when all you have is junk in warehouses, and no cash to buy what the affected people want. Today I saw this article written by Edward Brown, relief director for World Vision, who debunks five myths around disaster relief.
1. Collecting blankets, shoes and clothing is a cost-effective way to help
The cost of shipping these items – and the time it takes to sort and pack – is prohibitive and entails much higher cost than the value of the goods themselves. World Vision has relief supplies already stocked in disaster-prone countries as well as in strategically located warehouses around the world that meet international standards and are ready to deploy as soon as a crisis strikes. Cash donations are the best, most cost-efficent way to help aid groups deliver these life-saving supplies quickly, purchase supplies close to the disaster zone when possible and replenish their stocks in preparation for future disasters.
2. If I send cash, my help won’t get there
Reputable agencies send 80% or more of cash donations to the disaster site; the rest is invested in monitoring, reporting and other activities that facilitate transparency and efficiency in their operations, as well as in sharing information with those who can help. Donors have a right and a responsibility to ask aid groups how they will be using those donations, and what will be done with donations raised in excess of the need.
3. Volunteers are desperately needed in emergency situations
While hands-on service may feel like a better way to help in a crisis, disaster response is a highly technical and sensitive effort. Professionals with specialized skills and overseas disaster experience should be deployed to disaster sites. Volunteers without those skills can do more harm than good, and siphon off critical logistics and translations services.
4. Unaccompanied children should be adopted as quickly as possible to get them out of dangerous conditions
Hearing about the specific needs of children often sparks a desire to adopt children who seem to have lost their families. However, early in a crisis, children need to be protected, but should remain in their home countries until authorities can confirm the locations of their family members and explore adoption possibilities within their own communities and cultures first.
5. People are helpless in the face of natural disasters
Even in the poorest countries like Haiti, people often reveal a great deal of inner strength and often show a resourcefulness that can save lives... While support and aid are necessary, the Haitian people are by no means helpless.
. So I implore you, we need you empathy, sympathy, support but not your hand-me-down clothes.