5 myths about helping Haiti:

January 22, 2010

Chris, my friend who works for World Vision, has been fabulous about forwarding me every little email he receives from them.

I felt this one was too valuable not to share. We laughed so much when I lived in Haiti because people would send sweaters, or stuffed animals and - what do you expect a kid to do with that when it's 115 and humid beyond belief!?

Thank you, World Vision!

5 Myths about helping Haiti:

1. Collecting blankets, shoes and clothing is a cost-effective way to help

The cost of shipping these items from around the country – let alone the
time it takes to sort, pack and ship them – is prohibitive and entails much
higher cost than the value of the goods themselves. World Vision has relief
supplies already stocked in disaster-prone countries as well as in
strategically located warehouses around the world. World Vision had
supplies pre-positioned in Haiti in preparation for hurricane season, which
allowed the agency to respond immediately to last week’s earthquake.
These supplies are designed to meet international standards for
humanitarian relief and are packaged up and ready to deploy as soon as a
crisis strikes. Cash donations are the best, most cost-efficent way to help
aid groups deliver these life-saving supplies quickly, purchase supplies
close to the disaster zone when possible and replenish their stocks in
preparation for future disasters.

2. If I send cash, my help won’t get there

Reputable agencies send 80 percent or more of cash donations to the
disaster site; the rest is invested in monitoring, reporting and other
activities that facilitate transparency and efficiency in their operations,
as well as in sharing information with those who can help. Donors have a
right and a responsibility to ask aid groups how they will be using those
donations, and what will be done with donations raised in excess of the
need. Transparent and effective organizations will readily provide that
information.

3. Volunteers are desperately needed in emergency situations.

While hands-on service may feel like a better way to help in a crisis,
disaster response is a highly technical and sensitive effort.
Professionals with specialized skills and overseas disaster experience
should deployed to disaster sites. Volunteers without those skills can do
more harm than good, and siphon off critical logistics and translations
services. Qualified disaster professionals ensure that help is delivered
effectively, safely and efficiently.

4. Unaccompanied children should be adopted as quickly as possible to get
them out of dangerous conditions.

Hearing about the specific needs of children often sparks a desire to adopt
children who seem to have lost their families. However, early in a crisis,
children need to be protected, but should remain in their home countries
until authorities can confirm the locations of their family members and
explore adoption possibilities within their own communities and cultures.
International adoption may be the best solution for some children, but it
is too early to know for sure in the first weeks of a crisis.

5. People are helpless in the face of natural disasters

Even in the poorest countries like Haiti, people often reveal a great deal
of inner strength and often show a resourcefulness that can save lives...
While support and aid are necessary, the Haitian people are by no means
helpless.

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