Donate Cash For Greatest Disaster Relief Impact – If you don’t live near a disaster area, sending money can do more good than a mountain of toilet paper. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Julia Brooks does not work for, consult with, own stock in, or receive funding from any company or organization that benefits from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations outside of her academic appointment.

Donate Cash For Greatest Disaster Relief Impact

Between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government entities, nonprofits large and small, and contributions from interested individuals, a massive Hurricane Harvey relief effort is taking shape.

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s Help for Houston campaign and countless other community collections illustrate America’s efforts to help people whose lives have been disrupted by catastrophic flooding. But like his campaign, these well-intentioned offers to ship goods to far-flung places in Texas perpetuate a common myth of charitable giving after a disaster.

As a researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, an interdisciplinary center at Harvard University dedicated to alleviating human suffering in times of war and disaster by analyzing and improving how professionals and communities respond to emergencies, I have seen the evidence of dozens of disasters, from Superstorm. . Sand to Tsunami in South Asia. It all points to a clear conclusion: in-kind donations of items like food, clothing, toiletries and diapers are often the last thing needed in disaster areas.

Providing the things people need on the ground simply doesn’t help disaster-stricken communities as much as giving them and aid organizations money to buy what they need. Also, trucks full of jeans and boxes of Lunchables can interfere with official relief efforts.

As aid workers and volunteers have witnessed after disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan, disaster relief efforts repeatedly provide lessons about good intentions gone astray.

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At best, in-kind donations boost official efforts and give local residents a little extra comfort, especially when those donations come from nearby. When various levels of government failed to respond to the needs of victims of Hurricane Katrina, for example, community, faith-based, and private sector organizations stepped in to fill many of the gaps.

How can in-kind donations do more harm than good? Although seemingly free, donated products increase the cost of the response cycle: from collection, sorting, packaging and long-distance shipping of bulky items to arrival, receiving, sorting, storage and distribution.

The delivery of such aid is extremely difficult in disaster areas, as transport infrastructure such as airports, seaports, roads and bridges are likely to be, if not damaged or disabled by the initial disaster, already obstructed by the surge of aid received, aid shipments. and equipment

In the worst cases, disaster areas become a dumping ground for inadequate goods that delay real relief efforts and harm local economies.

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After the 2004 South Asian tsunami, containers filled with unsuitable items such as used high-heeled shoes, ski equipment and expired medicine poured into the affected countries. This garbage clogged ports and roads, contaminating already devastated areas and diverting personnel, trucks and warehouses from actual relief efforts.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many untrained and uninvited American volunteers carrying unnecessary goods ended up needing help.

Not only do in-kind donations often fail to help those in need, they cause congestion, drain resources and further damage local economies when poured into the marketplace, according to research by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

A study led by José Holguín-Veras, an expert in humanitarian logistics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found that between 50 and 70 percent of the goods arriving in these emergencies should never have been sent and interfered with recovery efforts. After the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri and the earthquake in Tōhoku, Japan, for example, excessive donations of clothing and blankets tied up rescue workers. The situation was similar after Hurricane Katrina.

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Aid workers consider these well-intentioned but inconvenient donations a “second-level disaster” because of the disruption they cause.

However, Americans are organizing this type of donation drive in places like Sea Bright, New Jersey, Pleasant View, Tennessee, Escondido, California, Florida’s Treasure Coast, Chicago, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Instead of sending your gifts, give money to trusted and established organizations with extensive experience and knowledge and local connections.

Ask the groups to clarify where the money will go. Choose relief efforts that will procure supplies near the disaster area, which will help the local economy recover. Many media outlets, including The New York Times and NPR, have published helpful guides listing legitimate and worthy options. You can also check Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that evaluates the financial performance of charities.

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Many humanitarian aid organizations have increasingly adopted cash-based approaches in recent years, although cash remains a small part of global humanitarian aid worldwide.

Evaluations of the effectiveness of these programs vary and depend on the context. However, emerging evidence suggests that paying cash is often the best way to help people in disaster areas get the food and shelter they need. In addition, the World Food Program and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees say that people affected by disasters often prefer cash to in-kind aid because of the dignity, control and flexibility it offers.

If you live in or near the affected area, it is helpful to consider dropping off certain items that victims are requesting at local food banks, shelters, and other community organizations. Just make sure the items aren’t lost by the time they can be distributed. Some examples of items requested locally in Houston include diapers, cleaning and construction supplies, and new bedding.

Charity is a virtue. Especially when disaster strikes, the need to help is admirable. However, this impulse must be channeled to do the greatest good. So please, if you want to help remotely, let the professionals purchase goods and services. Instead, give money and listen to what people on the ground say they need.

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And don’t stop giving after the disaster stops making headlines. A full recovery will require time and support long after emergency crews and film crews have passed.

Write an article and join a growing community of over 158,300 academics and researchers from 4,543 institutions. When natural disasters strike around the world, Americans are known for their generosity and willingness to help those affected. 63 percent of Americans surveyed in a Harris Interactive poll said they had given to disaster relief efforts in the past five years. Sometimes these donations include monetary donations, but more often people give material goods such as bottled water, canned goods or clothing.

While material donations are well-intentioned, they often create new challenges that can take valuable time and resources away from recovery efforts on the ground. Cash or monetary donations, on the other hand, offer much more flexibility to meet short- and long-term needs, and actually have a greater impact for reasons that may not be immediately obvious.

Shipping physical items around the world can be expensive, clog runways used for aid flights and take a long time to arrive. For example, sending bottles of water overseas after a disaster may seem like a good idea, but it’s not the most effective or efficient way to help. The cost of shipping 100,000 liters of bottled water overseas costs about $350,000, while the cost of household water purification systems can provide roughly the same amount of water for just $300. That’s a big difference. It’s also important to remember that food and clean water can almost always be purchased locally, even after a disaster.

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Also, in an emergency situation where time is critical, organizations can quickly process monetary gifts and provide exactly what survivors need.

Donated clothing can be difficult and expensive to transport, but that’s not why 38 countries around the world have banned the import of used clothing. Whether it’s clothing inappropriate for the affected area’s climate, such as winter coats in a tropical climate, or clothing that may be culturally inappropriate in some regions, these are some of the reasons why clothing donations would may not be as useful as some. to think

The same goes for food. Different cultural and religious practices, as well as food restrictions around the world, mean that even if well-intentioned, donated food is often wasted. In addition, foods that require complicated work to prepare or that spoil quickly in different climates can create other problems.

An influx of material donations can also have a negative impact on local economies, leaving industries unable to grow or provide local jobs. If millions of pounds of food or clothing are shipped to an area, consider the financial impact it could have on local farmers or fabric manufacturers trying to sell their products. Monetary donations not only allow people to buy locally produced goods, but also inject financial support into local economies when people need it most.

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In addition, unusable or useless material goods generate litter, which can lead to additional cleaning costs later and leave a lasting impact on the environment. Cash donations prevent this unnecessary waste and allow people to make cheaper and greener purchases.

After a natural disaster, the needs on the ground are constantly changing. For example, an aid group may need medical supplies

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