Earthquake Aid: Where Do My Few Dollars Go?

Like many people around the world I donated money the other day to one of the aid agencies bringing relief to the earthquake survivors in Nepal.

I just hope my money is effective.

You do wonder. The whole business of charity donation is coloured with doubt. How much is actually getting through to where it will do good. How much is spent in marketing and administration. How much is wasted. How much is diverted into the pockets of corrupt local politicians or officials.

These are doubts which are brought into sharper focus with a major tragedy such as the 7.9 magnitude earthquake which hit Nepal.

The pictures on our TV screens quickly brought us heartbreaking images of destruction and despair in Kathmandu, a city of 3 million people. Just as quickly, the news teams unearthed scenes of hope and wonder – a baby rescued, a four year old child brought to the surface after four days, a 101-year-old man survives the rubble of his house after seven days.

But within days, the news changes to stories of delays, red tape, and maladministration as international aid agencies struggled to come to grips with the scope of the disaster and the mountainous terrain in which they are operating.

One week after the quake and the death toll has climbed to 7,000; the Nepalese government estimates that 8 million people are impacted in some way in a country of 28 million people. The UN has called for a relief fund of US$415 million. So far, US$61m has been pledged in humanitarian aid.

In 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the toll was even greater. More than 200,000 dead, 1.5 million people initially displaced.

Five years on and the latest reports from Haiti indicate that 85,000 people remain homeless, schools have not been rebuilt, the economy is still crippled. This despite, according to the UN, an allocation of US$13 billion by multilateral and bilateral agencies for relief and recovery over a ten year period.

The 2004 Boxing Day earthquake in Indonesia triggered Indian Ocean tsunamis which killed 230,000 people in 14 countries. The international community responded with more than US$14 billion in humanitarian aid.

There are villagers Sri Lanka and Indonesia still looking for a few dollars of that enormous sum.

So where have my few dollars gone this time around? I don’t know. I will never know. But I hope and trust that it has done some good.

Len Horne

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