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Marija Kovačević

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Humanitarian response: Is it slow and inefficient because of lack of money, or lack of interest?

Every time a disaster strikes, we see the same scenario - people without homes/food/water, and it goes on until the situation becomes too embarrassing for the world to watch.
First response usually comes from NGO's and volunteers, than come big governments and big organizations.
I was wondering what is the reason that by now we, as a society, don't have more efficient procedures and measures in case of an emergency? Is it the lack of funding, or are those struck by a disaster poor consumers, and no big corporation can earn on them?
Did we allow the big capital to completely put the needs of the weakest to side?
Should governments take in consideration the possibilities of natural disasters, and not just hope it will happen to someone else, and fund projects like Michael McDaniel's? Should we look for a response in governments of private sector?
Can an individual do something about it?

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    Jul 21 2012: Marija, One of the advantages of being old is I can say it the way I see it and have seen it. First you must look at the agencies. The biggies in the US all have top heavy expenses (administrative salaries) so the bulk of the money never goes to the cause. New Orleans and Hati are great examples. I read an article on New Orleans relief funds and enough money was donated and federally funded to give every man, woman, and child over $300,000 each. There are investigation on going but no results. I cannot figure out why there are no results because the same agency that was given all the money is doing the investigating. The tax payers will probally get another bill for them doing the investigation on themselves.

    Millions of dollars were donated to Hati and millions more by the US government and after all of this time there is no visiable improvements. Perhaps we are seeing a pattern here.

    Even the agencies that are half way dedicated to the relief effort make hugh errors. They ship goods to ports without any one on the ground at the other end. Wow ... surprise ... most of the stuff and all of the good stuff ... disappears at the docks. Money sent to foreign governments never reaches the victims.

    I am not saying that all governments are corrupt or that all relief agencies are corrupt. However I am saying that the current practice is ineficienct and allows for corruption.

    One church group has got it figured out. They prepare, pack, and escort a food paste to the sticken area and then arrange transport to distribution points that are staffed by church members. In this manner 100% of the product is delivered directly to the intended reciepient. They do this at the expense of the church to help their fellow man. I find this a very refreshing and effective approach. The church is the Mormons.

    It does not take a lot of time to check out these agencies on the internet. I always do before I give.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Jul 21 2012: During the war in Croatia, my mom was helping the Red cross, distributing food to people from our town. She remembers containers of food and clothes coming from Germany. She said the distribution depended on their conscience, and noone controlled their work. She also remembers several people having the key to the storage and things disappearing. But, we always think, it's Balkans, things like that happen here :/ It seems it happens everywhere!! And this is such a small scale. I can only imagine what happens with money and valuable donations...
      I guess, considering all that You wrote, and my mothers experience, volunteering is much better option than donating money...
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        Jul 21 2012: You have broken the code. Throwing money at any problem never has and never will work. Historicall the answer has always been more time, more money, and more people will solve anything. We have always been historically wrong.

        Your response was generous and kind.. My respects to your mother.

        All the best. Bob.
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        Jul 25 2012: I am going to share two experiences. When the war was in full swing in Croatia I had a friend who worked for the Red Cross, and she would go with the trucks from Italy to Croatia to drop off aid. She told me stories of being stopped at the border and not being allowed to cross unless they "gave a percentage of what they were hauling. they notified the government and concerns were ignored.
        My own personal experience is very different from what you and many have experienced. I live in New Zealand and was effected by the Christchurch earthquake on 22 Feb 2011. I lost my home and workplace and struggled with what happened, but was amazed at how quickly our local government and council responded. We had the volunteer sectors setting up welfare centres within hours, we had search and rescue and extra police and fire department swarming into Chch within hours. It wasn't just the government, though they had organised a lot of immediate aid into the region, but everyday New Zealanders from the region were also involved in the response. We have a huge dairy industry around Christchurch and all the farmers around Canterbury got together and helped the dairy farms that had been effected to milk over 5000 cows by hand (the power was out) so that they would not lose revenue. Everyday people were going around their towns and gathering bedding, food, clothes etc and bringing truckloads through to chch. We also had search and rescue from around 9 different countries, including Japan (who were hit by the Sunami only weeks later), USA, britain, Korea and Australia. this was within the first 2 days. The money raised by the red cross, which was a lot has actually been paid out to everyone effected. I personally was given $1500 within 2 weeks to help with the costs of finding somewhere else to live, and still more is going to those most effected. The response was like clock work. It is the norm in New Zealand to all pitch in and help, so this may have helped. I feel blessed
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    Jul 20 2012: I think it is because our love is not perfect; and our feelings of the urgency of such situations are inadequate.
    There will always be emergency situations. Nature, life and living present uncertainties as certain as sunlight's reign in the day.
    We can do better than we are doing now. We need to work on a collaboration between government and various sections of the social sphere. Government, NGOs, multinationals and the private sector, and citizens; all united for charity.

    Charity should not be seen as only the work and responsibility of NGOs. It is the resposibility of a civilised world. I think government should be quicker in making funds and resources available; and other stakeholders should make sure that they are actually doing their best.
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    Jul 21 2012: When disaster strikes in war-torn areas, few people or organizations can zoom in safely as quickly as would be ideal.

    When disaster strikes in places where passage of people and supplies is difficult because of terrain, aid tends to move in more slowly than would be ideal.

    Doctors without Borders, or their parent organization Medicin sans Friontiers, won its Nobel prize in part for the way it has organized an effective infrastructure for zooming in quickly with humanitarian aid. If you go to their website, you will find options for what individuals can do, depending on their specific skills and resources.
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      Jul 21 2012: Yes, Medicin sans Friontiers is an organization that amazes me!
      I guess that would be a good model for other aspects of help, like shelter providers, or food distributors.
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    Jul 27 2012: I think it is a far bigger job than people seem to realize and it is only slow if you ignore the magnitude of what is expected or if you think about those in need. My point is that if it is slow, we are not giving it what it needs including respect for the magnitude of the task.
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    Jul 21 2012: IN MY VIEW:
    Its definitely lack of interest cause money is also a form of contribution from interested people. Interest of people towards humanitarian response should be more instantaneous and steps should be taken to increase interest level of people.
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    Jul 21 2012: bureaucracy is the glue that binds the cogs of activity every time..
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      Jul 21 2012: I haven't heared of it! Thank You for pointing it out!
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    Jul 20 2012: It seems that when disaster strikes in wealthy areas (New York, Paris, etc) response is much quicker and complete than in rural or poorer areas. There's more infrastructure already in place, and there are more people 'professionally' trained and readily available, to handle such emergencies more immediately. Any kind of 'disaster' has the most impact on those with the least ability to withstand it, and that usually means the poor.
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      Jul 21 2012: And it is "under our noses"! It is hard to relate to the suffering we don't see :/
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        Jul 21 2012: I think Albert Schwietzer said : Think occasionally of the poor of whom you spare yourself the sight.