Ebola: How to Help

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After posting the letter from my friend in Liberia, it was suggested that we do something to help.  With over 13,042 cases reported and 4, 818 deaths this disease continues to ravage West Africa (CDC).  As I thought about what we could do, I realized that reinventing the wheel is not a good idea here.  There are people and organizations on the ground working to improve the situation.  We should find ways to support their efforts.  In the future, when giving, the CIDI has posted Guidelines for Giving:

When disaster strikes overseas, people want to help.  The good news is this: the easiest way to support response efforts is also the most economical efficient, and effective – through cash donations to relief agencies.

Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster survivors, when it is needed. Cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased near the disaster site, avoiding the delays, and steep transportation and logistical costs that can encumber material donations. Some commodities, particularly food, can almost always be purchased locally – even after devastating emergencies and in famine situations.

Cash purchases also convey benefits beyond the items procured. They support local merchants and local economies, ensure that commodities are fresh and familiar to survivors, that supplies arrive expeditiously and that goods are culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate.

When disasters happen, many Americans respond by collecting items in food and clothes drives, intending to provide for those in need. It is not unusual for community and civic groups to collect thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know what to do with it.

In-kind and material donations require transportation, which is often prohibitively expensive and logistically complicated, given post-disaster infrastructure and challenges.  Further, shipments of material donations require an identified recipient on the ground – someone willing to receive, sort and distribute the material.

In contrast to how cash donations are used, unsolicited household donations can clog supply chains, take space required to stage life-saving relief supplies for distribution, and divert relief workers’ time. Collections of household goods serve no useful function in the acute phase of an emergency operation. Managing piles of unsolicited items may actually add to the cost of relief work through forcing changes to logistical and distribution plans and creating more tasks for relief workers.

Before collecting goods, consider transportation expenses, storage and distribution challenges, and the real-time needs of those in the affected area.

Cash contributions to established, legitimate relief agencies are always more beneficial to survivors and to relief operations.  Keep reading for more information on why cash, rather than material donations, are the most effective way to help.

A lot of info but important to know!  If you would like to help in the Ebola effort, please visit the CIDI web site and consider making a donation.  I liked this one from GlobalGiving.  Perhaps we can pass on a few sodas or an extra pair of shoes to help someone who’s life depends on a Good Samaritan.

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