As part of the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) guides and informs the public, including religious and community groups; diaspora; embassies; non-profits; corporations; businesses and governmental organizations about the most effective ways to support international disaster relief and recovery.
about usaid cidi

Mission and Goals

USAID CIDI provides resources and conducts public awareness activities designed to empower donors to most effectively help people affected by disasters overseas. Through outreach, partnerships, and our annual student PSAid competition, we support donors and relief agencies as they work together to provide essential relief to disaster victims quickly, effectively, and economically.

USAID CIDI‘s Guidelines for Effective International Disaster Donations have been adopted in some form by many key players in the international donations management arena, including federal and local government agencies and coalitions of relief and development organizations.

Make an Impact

Learn more about how you can make an impact. Our situation reports, donations advice, guidelines, volunteer guidance, and articles provide details about international disaster relief and how the public can support it.



USAID created CIDI in 1988 one month after Hurricane Gilbert—a Category 5 storm affecting 10 countries —made landfall. An outpouring of unsolicited donations took up space at ports and airports that was needed to manage and deliver emergency supplies, and responders spent valuable time and resources dealing with unneeded clothing, expired medicine, and other non-critical items. USAID established CIDI with the goal of educating the public about how best to give when disaster strikes overseas.

Decades of experience with donors, donations, and relief efforts have shown us that monetary contributions to proven relief organizations give the best support to people affected by disasters. They ensure that supplies are fresh and familiar to survivors, that provisions arrive quickly and that goods are culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate. No unsolicited material donation can do as much good as quickly and at such low cost, with as little hassle for donors, recipients and, in the case of international disaster response, affected countries. Even tiny cash donations can do a great deal of good, as relief organizations can exercise bulk buying power to serve more people.

Compassionate people feel the suffering of others deeply and want to help in a personal way. For some, canned food, bottled water and used clothing are more satisfying to send because they are tangible, personal items one might give to a friend in need. Every disaster is unique, though, and affects survivors uniquely. Frequently, clean water, food and clothing are available near the disaster site, and sending more can get in the way of staging and delivering life-saving supplies. Uninvited donations take relief workers’ time to manage and may put local merchants out of business, creating a second, economic disaster. They are also exponentially more expensive to send, incur more costs every time they change hands and leave a big carbon footprint in their wake. In addition to helping more people at lower cost, monetary donations are used to set up medical clinics, reunite family members and provide shelter and other services which are vital to survivors.

USAID CIDI Donations Outreach Fact Sheet

Cash is Best

USAID CIDI coined the phrase “Cash is Best” in 1988. For more than 25 years, this tagline has been used by domestic and international relief agencies, U.N. organizations, the White House, and federal agencies to promote effective public support of disaster relief.