Hurricane wreckage

June 1 marks the start of Atlantic Hurricane Season – and as we know, it only takes one storm to cause significant damage to communities in the United States and around the world.


When disaster hits, many generous people start looking for ways they can help.

If you are one of them, you should use the start of Hurricane season to pre-plan your generosity too! It can make a big difference for people trying to get back on their feet after disaster.

How can you make the greatest impact in the lives of others this hurricane season? The answer is surprisingly simple: give cash to relief organizations that work directly with people affected by disasters.

Disasters evolve quickly as people move to safety and start receiving emergency services and humanitarian aid. Cash donations allow relief organizations to respond to changing needs quickly, which enables them to deliver essential supplies that are fresh and familiar to the people they are helping. Donating clothes and household items might seem like the right thing to do, but these items rarely reach the people they’re intended to help. In fact, unsolicited donations can hinder relief efforts by diverting relief workers’ attention, clogging up already-limited work space and requiring equipment and time to manage. In stark contrast, even small financial donations can make a huge difference because of charitable organizations’ bulk purchasing power. For example, relief organizations can provide safe drinking water to more than 32,000 people for one day for the same cost of shipping one 6-pack of bottled water to a disaster site.

Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 - Nov. 30
Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 – Nov. 30.


As we mark the start of Atlantic Hurricane Season, keep in mind these three ways you can help people in need:

  1. Decide ahead of time where your money will go. Choose a charity doing work you feel strongly about in hurricane-affected areas. You can make sure your donation is used effectively by consulting charity watchdogs such as Charity Navigator or Give Well.
  2. If you’ve already collected material goods, repurpose them! Your garage may be full, but fret not. Here are 55 ways to repurpose a material donation, or you can donate locally to people in need.
  3. Help spread the word about hurricane season, and cash donations. Many people aren’t aware of the positive impacts associated with giving cash to relief organizations after a disaster – or about the hazards of sending unsolicited material donations. Help us spread the word by directing people to www.cidi.org, following us on – Twitter and liking us on Facebook. You can also share the wonderful “Cash is Best” ads from our 2019 PSAid student contest! Visit psaid.org to see the winning entries.

If you’re still unsure about giving cash, check out our Greatest Good Donation Calculator to determine the cost of material donations like canned food, bottled water and clothes versus the good that the same amount of money can do in the hands of an experienced relief organization.




Save lives, save money – donate cash!

Written By: Joe Costanzo
Director UK Institute for Migration Research (UK-IMR), www.uk-imr.ac.uk

Anyone today with access to modern media has heard a podcast, watched a news story or read an article/blog about migration—even those without access to media have almost certainly heard or shared a personal, migration story.

December 18th, is International Migrants Day when we recognize “the large and increasing number of migrants in the world”. (United Nations @ http://www.un.org/en/events/migrantsday/)

Rarely a day goes by when stories of migration do not affect our lives. For some, migration is a first-person experience—our own stories of leaving, of change, of struggle, of searching for something better for us, for our families. For many, migration is part of our families’ stories. For some, migration is something we worry about, how it appears to be changing our villages, our cities and our nations. Migration is all of these things and more.

Who is a migrant? What about refugees, are they migrants too?

These may seem like basic questions but they cause confusion and frustration for many, including students and teachers, statisticians, legal scholars and policy makers trying to make sense of the complex world around us. The public conversation about migration has been nearly constant this year when we have witnessed unprecedented levels of human displacement across the globe.

Journalists, politicians and researchers have been responding daily to a rapidly changing landscape where all forms of migration continue to reach historically higher levels; where public support for humanitarian migration has abruptly shifted towards security concerns; and where long-standing (and assumed stable) policy and philosophical frameworks are in crisis—the European Union’s policy framework on asylum (called the Dublin Regulation) and the principle of free movement within European borders (the Schengen Area) are now being challenged. Here, in the UK, local authorities are responding, attempting to develop strategic plans on how to manage the certainty that change is coming but the uncertainty of what’s to come. This includes the formal resettlement of Syrians and steady claims for asylum from nationals of many other countries, as well as the continued growth in intra-EU migration towards the UK.

International agreements, like the 1951 Refugee Convention – which defines a refugee – and international organizations, like the United Nations, provide legal frameworks and guidance on how to describe and count the many different sorts of people (migrants, refugees, students etc.) who may cross national borders by choice or by force to travel, live, work or settle outside their home countries. The term “migrant” has no universally-accepted definition around the world, but the UN suggests that, in the international context, it refer to “any person who changes his or her country of usual residence” regardless of their motivation or legal circumstance.

Where can I find good, reliable information or learn more about migration?

The ‘simple’ answer could be in three easy steps: In places you likely already know, a few you may not and a few classics!

First, locate the basic terms and numbers: For definitions and other migration-related lingo, check out our migration institute’s new glossary of terms. Even though it might seem daunting at first, for numbers check out the experts at the national statistics offices in your country (like the Census Bureau in the United States, or the Office for National Statistics in the UK). These are excellent first points of contact for getting the big picture.

Second, think critically about what you read on migration. Ask yourself (and, why not the person or organization putting out the information?) where the numbers come from and whether sources you trust use those same numbers.

Third, google it (responsibly). I just googled “migration” from here in the UK. It gave me 170 million responses. I might be a migration researcher but I don’t have the time (or the money) to read all those results! Be more specific, googling “migration research” or “migration statistics” reduces the number of hits by millions. Even more important, the top results are recognizable names and organizations—universities, think tanks and government agencies working specifically on these issues. Adding even more specific terms you’re interested in, like your city, or themes like “jobs”, “impacts” or “asylum” will help again. If you find yourself caught on an academic website—fear not! Sources like TheConversation.com and DiscoverSociety.org translate academic research into compelling, accessible and timely data and analysis that can be readily used and understood. Too, targeted google searches have the added value of introducing you to new, emerging sources of information.

The importance of an informed discussion on migration could not be more critical given the historic levels of all forms of migration underway worldwide including, and most visibly, the forced (or humanitarian-led) migration of refugees. And, through the determined efforts of many actors in and outside of academia, a hard-fought and important place has been created for evidence-led debate on migration.

For many reasons, the debate over migration will continue to grab headlines. Hopefully this short blog post gives some easy to remember and easy to use tools so you can question (and provide your own answers to) the migration conversation.

Currently the Director of the UK Institute for Migration Research, Dr Costanzo got his start in the migration field in the early 1990s as an intern in the Consular Section of the US Embassy in Paris (State) before working for many years on migration statistics and migration policy for the US Commission on Immigration Reform, US Census Bureau (Commerce) and US Citizenship & Immigration Services (Homeland Security). Joe and the UK Institute for Migration Research are based in Kent, England.

 

 

 

We love Twitter and we love clever handles so it naturally follows that we love Tom Murphy or @viewfromthecave.

How do we love thee? Let us count the ways in snippets from your latest piece for Humanosphere: “Want to help the Philippines? Give unrestricted cash”.

1. “Another major disaster strikes and do-gooders rush to help however they can. It is one of the most endearing qualities about humanity, but sometimes your instincts fail you. The compulsion to help can be good, but it is only effective if done right.” Straight out of the gate, Mr. Murphy highlights the importance of what we call “Smart Compassion”-giving effectively.

2. “With disasters, the best way to help people is to donate cash.” Yes and amen! Cash is Best!

3.  “Relief agencies need money to pay for the staff, services and provisions that will help people in need.” That’s the best part of monetary donations to a trusted relief organization: it keeps the life-saving running smoothly, quickly, and efficiently. Aid is not just food and shelter, it is also the infrastructure, supply-lines, and trained experts needed to deliver and give aid quickly.

4. “Aid workers compete by telling stories about their craziest experiences.” Uh, no comment(!)

5. “Airplanes filled with non-essential unwanted goods suck up fuel, money and space on the airstrip.” This was unfortunately the case in Haiti, Katrina, and every major disaster we have seen here at USAID CIDI since 1988. The costs are not just monetary but to lives saved, first aid given, and food aid dispensed.

6. “The thought is to jump on a plane and lend a hand. You will create more work for the relief agencies who need to manage you and the fact that you take up valuable plane space that could be filled with skilled aid workers or lifesaving supplies.” The reality of volunteering without being skilled or affiliated with a relief organization is that you not only waste your own money taking leave, paying for gear, and buying a ticket, you also take away food, shelter, money, and the attention of professionals from survivors.

7. “You can make a difference in the Philippines, but it is through your checkbook, not your closet. There are organizations that have a long history of working in post-disaster areas. They are your best bet to make sure that your money will reach Filipino people.” You as a donor have power and the ability to save people but it has to be done with Smart Compassion! We encourage you to check out our Smart Compassion Toolkit before scoping the reliable, time-tested organizations within the InterAction and GlobalGiving networks. Don’t see anything you like? It’s ok! Donate to an organization you are philosophically aligned with.

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Danielle Heiberg, Senior Program Coordinator, InterAction

Americans are generous. According to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, they gave nearly $3 billion to their favorite charities and causes in 2011. InterAction, an alliance of nearly 200 non-governmental organizations (NGOs or charitable organizations), estimates that in 2009 its members received $9 billion in private donations (which includes the public, foundations and corporations). InterAction members use these charitable donations to support their work helping the most poor and vulnerable. But where? And how?

To help answer these questions InterAction developed NGO Aid Map, an online initiative to map where InterAction members work and the specific projects they carry out in these countries. For the past two years, we have mapped the work of our members in Haiti, the Horn of Africa, and food security (or agriculture projects) globally. This past spring, we expanded the initiative to include China, India and Mexico.  And we plan to take the map global next year.

The projects on NGO Aid Map are provided voluntarily and are only a part of the picture of what the many charities in the U.S. are doing in the developing world, but it is an important first step towards understanding how billions of dollars in donations are used.

To date, over 3,800 projects from over 130 organizations have been added to NGO Aid Map. The site is searchable by organization, types of projects and geographical location. Visitors can learn more about a project to reduce newborn, maternal and child deaths  in India or about a micro-finance project in Haiti, among many others. Most importantly, the data is open and available for download, making the work of InterAction NGOs transparent

We encourage you to visit NGO Aid Map to learn more about what your favorite charity is doing and how your donations are making a difference in the lives of others.

 

NGO Aid Map is an initiative of InterAction and is funded by FedEx and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). For more information contact [email protected]

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After the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma last month, Americans from all over donated what they could – principally money and unsolicited material donations. Where money gives the community flexibility to purchase exactly what is needed for relief and reconstruction, unsolicited material donations can pose obstacles to both.

It appears that the City of Moore, OK has asked that no more unsolicited material donations be delivered to Moore until they have a system in place to manage them: http://www.cityofmoore.com/update-about-donating-goods-and-materials. Unsolicited material donations are anything that the relief organizations in Moore did not specifically ask for. Apparently donations of used clothing, canned food, toys and other items are taking up space needed to stage and distribute more essential relief and rebuilding supplies.

The City is accepting monetary donations to four funds: the General Disaster Fund, the Animal Welfare Fund, the Safety Personnel Fund and the Moore Public Schools Foundation. There are buttons on the website that make it easy to contribute: http://www.cityofmoore.com/

Big kudos to everyone who’s working in or with the relief organizations in Moore, and to those who are still laboring in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The Caribbean is one of the most hurricane-prone regions in the world, killing people every year and making communities more vulnerable with each and every storm that hits. But it wasn’t a hurricane that put Yen Carlos Reyes at risk.

Reyes’s father dealt drugs in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Dominican Republic and rival gang members routinely raided his home. His mother abandoned Reyes, leaving him to bounce around from one relative’s house to another.  At age 17, he was a street fighter in the Dominican Republic, headed for jail—or worse.

Reyes’ story is one that resonates with many youth across the islands, where a lack of opportunities leads teens to partake in the crime and violence that plagues their communities. But now, in some of the toughest neighborhoods across the Caribbean, the energy and creativity of at-risk youth are being channeled to help them make the leap from neighborhood trouble-maker to community life saver.

St Patricks Rangers a voluntary youth club in Jamaica

Members of the St. Patrick’s Rangers, a voluntary youth club in Jamaica, engage in a map reading session through a disaster preparedness program led by USAID’s partner, Catholic Relief Services. Photo Credit: Catholic Relief Services

The Youth Emergency Action Committees (YEAC) program led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) with support from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) is one that transforms teens like Reyes into disaster-preparedness leaders. It teaches young people how to plan for and respond to hurricanes, administer first aid, map out evacuation routes and set up emergency shelters. In dedicating himself to the program, Reyes just may have saved his own life.

Started in September 2009 in four of the most hazard-prone and marginalized neighborhoods of inner-city Kingston, Jamaica, CRS began engaging youth through an ‘edutainment’ approach—education plus entertainment. Teens write music, create skits, and perform them to raise community awareness about disaster preparedness while simultaneously learning life-saving skills. Rap music, in particular, has been a big hit, with the group  coming up with lyrics such as, “Send in the broom and the shovel. Don’t bring the violence, please leave the trouble.” Because the program was so successful, CRS expanded it to the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia and Grenada.

Reyes says his priorities shifted and his life changed when he joined YEAC. With his teammates, Reyes helped build new homes and rehabilitate old ones for families whose houses were not able to withstand natural disasters. When Hurricane Sandy hit Puerto Plata, Reyes and the others on his committee—named El Esquadron, or the Squadron—were ready, helping to relocate 80 families to emergency shelter and implementing a disaster response plan for their community.  Reyes says he has a whole new set of goals including going back to school, thanks to the confidence YEAC has given him.

“Little by little, I started to see that I had value and that the other kids weren’t judging me. The work we did within the communities made me feel like I had something to offer and I started to see that my neighbors were looking at me different too,” said Reyes.

Watch this video for an in-depth look on how the program made a positive impact in Jamaica.

The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1 and is expected to be very active. Preparing your family and home for hurricanes is important.  But what about preparing yourself to assist others–do you know how to effectively help those who are impacted by disasters? The best way to help is easier than you think and works 100% of the time.

The simplest disaster readiness activity is also the most cost-effective and the least time-consuming for donors–monetary donations to credible relief organizations working on-site. Each disaster is unique and affects people and infrastructure differently. Monetary donations enable relief workers to respond to evolving needs as those affected migrate to safety, resettle, and eventually rebuild their communities.

Unsolicited donations delivered to Samoa

Unsolicited donations delivered to Samoa after the 2009 earthquake and tsunami took up space needed by relief organizations to sort and deliver vital emergency supplies. Photo credit: Richard Muffley, USAID CIDI

Most people react to disaster events overseas by collecting clothing, canned food and bottled water for survivors. While well-intended, many of these items actually remain in the U.S. because of the high fees and cost required to transport the donated goods to a foreign country.  Others items are turned away at their destination because they are not tied to a response organization or are deemed inappropriate. For example, thirty-four countries have banned the importation of used clothing and may decline collections that arrive. In reality, needs of disaster-affected people are carefully assessed by relief professionals on-site, who provide the right goods in sufficient quantities at the right time.

USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information recently rolled out a Greatest Good Donations Calculator, created by the Colleges of Engineering and Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island.  This calculator illustrates the costs of sending unsolicited donations. For example, let’s say someone purchases a teddy bear for $19.99 in Washington, D.C., intending to send it to Apia, the capital city of Samoa.  According to the calculator, the total cost to send this bear (including transportation and other fees) would be a whopping $273.43! By contrast, the same amount of money could be used by a relief organization to purchase 54,686 liters of clean water locally, helping more than 27,300 people.

Monetary contributions to established relief agencies in affected areas purchase exactly what survivors need when they need it.  They support local merchants and local economies, and ensure that beneficiaries receive supplies that are fresh, familiar, and culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate.

For more information on effective donations, visit USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information.

By A. Sezin Tokar, Ph.D., Senior Hydrometeorological Hazard Advisor, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance

Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer and the most fatal side effect of hurricanes. They kill thousands of people every year and cause millions of dollars in damage by destroying buildings and bridges, uprooting trees and overflowing rivers within mere minutes.

Trinidad Bolivia Flood USAID response

USAID responds to more floods than any other type of natural disaster, like this one in Trinidad, Bolivia in 2003. Photo Credit: USAID

Flash floods occur when excess water caused by heavy and rapid rainfall from tropical storms or hurricanes cannot be quickly absorbed into the earth. This fast-moving water can be extremely powerful, reaching heights of more than 30 feet. But it takes only six inches of water to knock a person to the ground or 18 inches to float a moving car.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance recognizes that while flash floods are deadly in even the most developed countries, they can really wreak havoc in densely populated regions around the world that lack strong infrastructure. Hurricane-prone regions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are especially vulnerable, which is why USAID works with host countries year-round to help them prepare.

Even though the onset of flash floods is almost immediate, it is possible to give up to a six hour window of advanced notice—just enough time to save lives.

The advanced warning is given through the Flash Flood Guidance System, a scientific method of accumulating rainfall data and analyzing the rate at which the ground absorbs it. USAID works closely with meteorological experts in hurricane-prone countries, training them on how this system works so that they can be on the lookout for potential flash floods. Using the system gives disaster-prone countries the opportunity to use those crucial six hours before a flash flood hits to implement emergency plans and move as many people out of harm’s way.

Six hours may seem like a lot of lead time, but it’s actually not when you’re rushing to alert remote and heavily populated villages—with limited communication—about an approaching disaster. Flash floods can’t be prevented, but USAID is committed to helping people better prepare for and recover from them. Because when it comes to saving lives and alleviating suffering, every minute counts.

Top forecasters are anticipating a busy 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, with the National Hurricane Center on May 23 predicting that 13 to 20 named storms will develop this year, with 7 to 11 of the systems expected to become hurricanes.

Plastic sheeting provided by USAID gives much needed shelter to a family in Nicaragua following a destructive hurricane in 2007.

Plastic sheeting provided by USAID gives much needed shelter to a family in Nicaragua following a destructive hurricane in 2007. Photo Credit: Alejandro Torres/USAID

No matter how accurate the forecast turns out to be, Hurricane Sandy taught us that it only takes one major storm to kill more than 70 people in this country, injure hundreds of others, and inflict billions of dollars in damages.  If one hurricane could do so much damage the U.S., imagine the impact of similar storms on less developed countries.

USAID is prepared to meet the demands of an active hurricane season.  All year, experts with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) have been working closely with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to make sure emergency and evacuation plans are in place.  USAID has emergency stockpiles in Miami, including medical supplies, hygiene kits, shelter materials, and water purification equipment. We have the ability to charter planes in eight different countries to deliver these life-saving items quickly to countries hit hard by hurricanes.  When we know a storm is coming, we can pre-position staff and relief supplies to provide immediate assistance.

But arguably, the most vital resource USAID has is its people.  In addition to the 25 disaster experts USAID/OFDA has in the region, there are also about 350 consultants in 28 countries who can immediately jump into the action when a hurricane makes landfall. These consultants live in the region, so they know the country, culture and local officials and can quickly report the conditions on the ground and help USAID prioritize humanitarian needs.

USAID airlifted emergency relief supplies to the Bahamas when Hurricane Irene made landfall in 2011.

USAID airlifted emergency relief supplies to the Bahamas when Hurricane Irene made landfall in 2011. Photo Credit: USAID

“They are our eyes and ears, and they allow USAID to be fast, aggressive and robust in a disaster response,” said Tim Callaghan, USAID/OFDA’s Principal Regional Advisor in Latin America and the Caribbean.  “They work to save lives and alleviate suffering.”

All this week, we will be highlighting what USAID and its partners are doing in preparation for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, from protecting people from deadly flash floods to teaching children in Jamaica to become the next generation of disaster experts.

Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 26 through June 1, following the official forecast for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. This week, USAID is highlighting the work we do to help disaster-prone countries prepare for and recover from hurricanes.

Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 26-June 1, following the release of the official forecast for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. This week will highlight USAID’s work helping disaster-prone countries in Latin America and the Caribbean prepare for and recover from hurricanes.

Hurricane Stan Central America and Mexico

Hurricane Stan destroyed this building and many others in Central America and Mexico during the 2005 hurricane season. Photo credit: USAID

The National Hurricane Center announced on May 23 that 2013 will be a very active year, with between seven to 11 storm systems expected to develop into hurricanes.

USAID—through its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance—is prepared to meet the demands of a busy hurricane season. It has been working year-round with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure emergency and evacuation plans are in place.

All this week, USAID’s Impact blog will showcase how USAID and its partners have been helping to prepare hurricane-prone countries and communities for disasters, including:

  • Training on the Flash Flood Guidance System
    USAID works closely with meteorological experts in hurricane-prone countries, training them how to use this scientific system to help communities escape the most fatal side effect of hurricanes.