Tuesday, 12 April 2011

International aid in the wake of a disaster

It's an ant farm Japanese Flag!

It has been a month since the devastating earthquake in Japan. My various feeds have seen posts about buying this product to help the Japanese, go to this gig to raise money. Buying a certain product will contribute money to an organisation sending volunteers etc.

I haven't bought anything raising money for Japan. I haven't donated any money as yet. I donated as much as I could afford in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. So why haven't I donated anything this time?

My reason is simple - it hasn't really been asked for. When the earthquake hit Haiti last year, the Haitian government immediately asked for international aid. In the UK it was coordinated largely through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) who coordinate the donation of funds by the public and donors on behalf of 12 charities in the UK in the event of need. The public were asked to donate money via the DEC so it could be distributed to the charities that would be working on the ground, or who would redistribute to smaller charities who provide specialist assistance (like search and rescue, shelter etc).

Japan is one of the largest donors of international aid. They have good infrastructure, and a strong government, with plans and procedures. The Japanese government have asked international organisations not already working in the country to stay away, as a sudden influx of people in the areas affected would not be conducive to coordinating recovery.

The British Red Cross, Save The Children, World Vision and Oxfam are working to support their colleagues who are already in Japan. At this time though, only the British Red Cross and Oxfam are still accepting donations.

I think it is a natural urge to want to help people, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I can't shake the feeling that a lot of people who are trying to do good and raise money are forgetting that Japan is a pretty advanced country with stable government and infrastructure. We aren't dealing with another Haiti, or another Indonesia here, where the scenario is completely different. The result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan may be that Japan for a time is no longer a large donater of overseas aid, as it redirects its aid budget internally to rebuild and restore its own infrastructure. If this turns out to be the case, then the impact on the rest of the world is where I think donations should be focussed.

(image originally found here: http://www.ethanham.com/blog/2008/02/yukinori-yanagis-flags.html)

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