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Friday 7 January 2005

Is there now, perhaps, too much aid?

Seems an insensitive question to ask - but, assuming that news reports of pledged aid are to be believed, at least US$ 3 billion has been promised by various bodies, governmental and otherwise - and all of it is somehow rushing to the affected people. Is this perhaps too much - or, could it be better directed?

I've read other reports, on this blog and elsewhere, that seem to suggest a mismatch between what is needed by those affected - and what has been sent already. Clothes that don't make sense and food that's unpalatable are just a couple of examples. These are problems of wasted donations - but they will be worked out. The question, though, is who will work these out - and how will those kind souls be funded?

I was talking over this with Ingrid Srinath, CEO of Child Relief And You, also known as CRY - one of India's leading NGOs, and a lot of the agencies she was working with and directly hearing from in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh seemed to be saying that they really didn't need more cash for food or clothes to hand out - instead the entire effort needed to be better coordinated.

In effect, what I was hearing was this - while there was perhaps enough aid either already in place or on its way for those affected - there wasn't enough for those helping them. And at least in the world of fund-raising, this is a critical distinction.

When you raise funds for helping those in need, it is dishonest - not to mention illegal in many places - to use it on your own infrastructure to help you help those being aided. How many donors want to be told that their valuable dollars would be better used to to fund a volunteer from Chennai to coordinate relief efforts - instead of going to a fisherwoman from Cuddalore who may already be well-provided for - assuming, of course, that such is the case?

Ironically, funding of relief coordination - and not the relief itself seems to be one big need now. There is a need to fund local language-speaking volunteers and translators, to fund people doing the coordination - or to even fund - if that were needed - efforts such as this blog and planned databases to match resources and requirements and SMS-to-Blog-to-SMS gateways and such.

Further, much of this is a short-term view. There are longer-term needs to fund schools for the kids, orphanages for those who lost parents, and even education classes to teach people to cope with more disasters, should such ever occur. But is this 'glamorous' enough for donors to fund?

CRY plans to tackle this head on with their new online donation-attracting effort - which spells out what exactly they plan to use the funds for. It may not attract billions of dollars - but hopefully it'll send money where it is really needed - and help all of those other billions of dollars be put to better use.







5 Comments Post a Comment
Anonymous Anonymous said :

Re: "How many donors want to be told that their valuable dollars would be better used to to fund a volunteer from Chennai to coordinate relief efforts - instead of going to a fisherwoman "
Actually I don't think this is as huge of a barrier as you might think. The money is still going to efforts to help quake/tsunami vicitims in SE Asia. Although it is necessary to be transparent to donors that the money will go where the need it greatest, and if that's funding infrastructure, then so be it. Personally, I think people just want to make sure their donations are going to quake-tsunami related efforts as opposed to something else in another part of the world.
Perhaps the sentiment is different from the perspective of corporate donors who just want to help the "fisherwoman" you mentioned, but that would seem illogical. All donors want to see their money used in the best, most efficient way and if the choice is between their donations languishing in a bank account somewhere and their donations funding a relief worker or paying to buy trucks or rebuild schools for people affected, it would seem like they'd prefer the money be *used*!!
Thanks for reading this long post.
Peace,
Katya Roytburd
UNC grad student in Public Health

Fri Jan 07, 01:16:00 AM IST  
Blogger Sammy Hayles said :

It is not an insensitive question given the age we're living in. The truth of the matter is, it is not even the tip of the ice berg, given the magnitude of the disaster. Over 1 million children are affected, just think how much money it is going to take not only to keep these children safe from adult predators but also to provide food, clothing medical care and education for years to come. My prayer is that the resources be distributed according to need; to the people for which it was intended. This is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.

Fri Jan 07, 01:37:00 AM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

Indeed, there seems to be another mindset for disaster relief than for reguler public spending. For the latter, people need a cost assessment, while for the former, anything goes, as long as it feels like the thing to do. But people should start assessing the outcome of the relief effort on a regular basis, so that the public knows where all those resources are going and where more resources are needed. No amount of money will bring back the dead to life. Resources should be sent where they will do the most good. But they should stop rushing in at some point, or at least given a more definite use than disaster relief in general. It is time to make realistic plans for the future.

Fri Jan 07, 01:50:00 AM IST  
Blogger Phil Wolff said :

I went to a fundraiser planning meeting this week. One concern was about paying for short term relief (food, clothing, shelter, medicine) vs. our desire to support sustainable investments (microloans for businesses to get boats for fishermen, cattle for ranchers; civic infrastructure like roads, rebuilt hospitals, buildings. ) How can we tell which charities to support?

Fri Jan 07, 03:28:00 AM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

http://www.tsunamiaids.org

Lost/Found Persons, events, news on tsunami:

Let's help to pass the words around. Give your message a larger audience through mass circulation.

Sat Jan 08, 01:37:00 AM IST