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Center for International Disaster Information HOW YOU CAN HELP

The Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) provides information guidance on the best way to help support international disaster relief efforts. It is an official information source that is used by governments and charities around the world.

General guidelines for anyone wishing to help in a disaster:

Do NOT donate goods to ship directly for International disaster relief!

Do NOT travel independently to the disaster area to help!

PLEASE give MONEY to official organised aid groups!

If you want to volunteer, join an official charity or organisation and get properly trained, organised and supported before being deployed into a disaster area. (Red Cross / Red Crescent / Save the Children / OXFAM / Shelterbox / etc., etc.)

In general the last thing people struggling in a disaster area need is a shipping container arriving to clog up an overstretched port, only to find unsorted second hand clothes or unsuitable / out of date food and no support for distribution.

They do not need well-meaning unskilled volunteers without local language skills who turn up 'hoping to help'. These people become mere disaster tourists who also need help and consume precious resources shelter / food / water, resources which are in desperately short supply for the original victims of the disaster.


The information below is taken directly from the CIDI website:
Why is Cash Best?

There are three basic reasons why Cash Is Best.

Professional relief agencies use monetary contributions to purchase exactly and specifically what the disaster victims need. Staff for the organizations work directly with the victims at the disaster site and are in the best position to know not only what is immediately needed, but also when it is needed and where it is most needed. In addition the experience of the relief workers enables conversion of cash donations into items that withstand cultural and religious sensitivities, as well as environmental issues. Cash is also flexible, which allows relief workers to meet the changing priority needs of the disaster victims.

Money is easy to transport. Moving a container of donated goods can cost more than the value of the items. Getting a donated commodity into containers and onto a ship, across the sea to the disaster site, through the port costs and the customs' tariffs, quality checked, quantity checked and sorted, and organized into warehouses, requires payment at each step. Supplies can almost always be purchased local to the disaster site and provide savings in many ways.

Money used to purchase available items local to the disaster offers multiple advantages.

Consider that a cash donation:
Stimulates local economies, providing employment and generating cash flow, providing confidence and a sense of normalcy as the area recovers
Does not compete with goods from the local market
Ensures that supplies arrive as quickly as possible
Does not entail transportation/shipping costs.

Purchasing locally also decreases the environmental impact of relief efforts, because it requires less energy and creates fewer carbon emissions.
A cash donation helps relief organizations respond in a flexible, timely and cost-efficient manner ultimately providing greater help to those in need. For these reasons, cash contributions to established and legitimate relief agencies are always considerably more beneficial than the donation of commodities.

Why Are Donations Not Preferred?

Donated goods rarely meet international disaster victim's urgent needs and often interfere with professional relief efforts. Donated goods may cause more harm than good to the supply chain following an international disaster.

Simply put, when individuals or groups send goods, whether it is clothing, shoes, canned goods, or bottled water, supply chains get clogged, boxes need to be unloaded and warehoused eating up precious time, personnel and storage space.

The vast majority of these goods can be procured locally. Unfortunately, many people send items without thinking about the intended recipient. Examples includes donations of winter coats to people in tropical regions, teddy bears to children who never before seen one, canned ham to Muslim countries, and diet supplements to famine victims. While well-intentioned, donations of goods are rarely useful. The transportation of these goods often costs more than the value of the goods themselves. Additionally, containers of commodities placed freely for the use of international disaster victims has the negative impact of competing with the recovering, local markets.

Who Receives the Donation?
Contributors can be unsure for whom a cash contribution is intended. Some may think the money will be placed directly into the pockets of the victims. Some anticipate it will go to the U.S. Government or the government of the affected country. Others assume CIDI collects money. None of these is correct. Victims' assistance entails basic needs and not direct cash. The federal government has money already earmarked for use in humanitarian response activities, and CIDIhas no program or mechanism for receiving or distributing publicly donated money. Instead, monetary contributions go to relief professionals working in the field with the disaster victims.

There are many recognized U.S. based disaster response agencies. Some are very large and well-known through their appearance in the media. Many are faith-based groups and others are specialized service groups for unique needs within the relief response activities. All can play an important role in the response and recovery for different sectors of international disaster victim need and so CIDI does not make recommendations of recipient agencies to donors.

How to Give Responsibly

CIDI encourages individuals and groups to make financial contributions to a well-established, recognized international disaster relief agency or nonprofit organization.

CIDI partners with InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations, which provides a list of credible responding agencies for international emergencies. Each InterAction member undergoes a rigorous financial and policy review. Contributors should determine agencies with which they are fundamentally and philosophically comfortable. Donors make contributions directly to the recipient of choice. CIDI does not direct the selection process or the contribution process. Rather, CIDI helps contributors find organizations that would benefit from donations, but the actual choice and the process of making the donation is left to the contributors.

For further guidance on making informed decisions when supporting charities, we recommend visting CharityNavigatorand the Better Business Bureau. CIDI also partners with GlobalGiving which offers additional opportunities to make an impact with humanitarian relief efforts.

What Else You Can Do
There are many ways you can help and make a difference to international disaster victims. Tell your friends about why cash is the best way to help, plan a fundraiser in your community, and support the efforts of international disaster relief agencies.

Become a fan of CIDI on Facebook and encourage your friends to do the same. Follow CIDI on Twitter to keep updated about developments. And remember, to help the most, cash is best!

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