Since Monday, I’ve been doing some research (on behalf of others) on development in Africa. This topic inevitably led to aid in general, and humanitarian aid in particular, which led me to reading up on the current situation in Haiti. I happened upon a couple of blogs, and I’d like to share some of what I read:
Haiti needed help long before this disaster.
Nobody can deny that Haiti needs assistance right now to save lives, but it also needed assistance yesterday when the infant mortality rate was the 37th lowest in the world. When it comes to natural disasters, we – our governments, our media, ourselves – are victims of the same biases that cause impulse buying at the supermarket. Thousands of people dying from buildings falling on them instantly mobilises a huge amount of resources, but thousands of children dying from easily preventable diseases is just background noise. This is the uncomfortable reality of the aid world, but it’s not one that our media or governments really wants to hear.
Are there large numbers of orphans in need of adoption?
After the tsunami money came pouring into orphanages and foster care programs. I had two different instances where staff from an orphanage and a foster care program came to me seeking orphans. The foster care program and orphanage were built without first determining whether there was actually a need, and both programs eventually had to settle for street children. There were few children that were not cared for by family or living in a state sponsored boarding school.
The pervasive perception that thousands of orphans were dependent on international aid was spread, wittingly or not, but a number of agencies. On 15 February Reuters, citing Indonesian government and UNICEF figures reported: “Up to 10,000 Aceh children seek parents after the tsunami. ” The reality is more complex. Firstly, the numbers: given their physical weakness, a far greater proportion of children were carried off by the waves than adults. UNICEF estimated children comprised half the victims, whereas before the tsunami only one in three inhabitants were children. “We have far more orphaned parents than orphaned children,” pointed out UNIECF’s Shannon Strother. Secondly, their status: by late February [just 2 months after the tsunami] only 60 children had been identified as ‘unaccompanied minors’, i.e., left without support from any adult they knew before the disaster. All other orphans between 6,000 and 10,000 according to UNICEF, were in “some kind of foster situation”. Their extended family, their neighbors or their friends had taken them in.
-World Disaster Report 2005, as quoted in informationincontext.typepad.com
Dos and don’ts of disaster donations:
- Do look at a variety if agencies before giving
- Do look for organizations with prior experience and expertise
- Don’t donate to a project just because it’s “sexy”
- Don’t earmark funds
- Don’t evaluate an organization based on the amount spent on administration cost
- Don’t expect the funds to be spent immediately
- Do consider holding off some of your donations until later in the rebuilding process
- Don’t take up a collection of goods to send over
- Don’t go over individually to volunteer
- Do consider donating an equal amount of money to disaster preparedness programs.
Judge the aid agency by their advertising:
Think about the most memorable photo in a recent advertisement from an aid agency. What emotion did that photo create? Did it inspire you to give money?
Now imagine that it is your child, sister, or parent in that photo. Would you want that picture used in an advertising campaign?
[…] aid agencies that portray aid recipients as helpless and hopeless are likely to think of aid recipients as helpless and hopeless as well. This does the aid recipient no favor as it leads to programs that foster aid dependency, rather than helping people help themselves.
[…]Aid agencies that present aid recipients as people with dignity and ability are more likely to treat them like people with dignity and ability.
I did read more than this, but other than not wishing to bore you, I can’t recall the websites…