NEW DELHI (AlertNet) – As millions around the world watch as Japan struggles to cope with the devastation of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami -- and now a potential nuclear disaster -- many of us want to help.
A quick search on google with keywords “Japan” and “donate” will bring up a list of charities that are more than willing to take your money off your hands
But should we do so? Many believe we shouldn’t.
Japan is an industrialized nation and one of the most well-equipped on earth to cope with such calamities, they argue.
“Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it,” writes reuters.com blogger Felix Salmon.
Others also point to the more complex issue of humanitarian aid, questioning whether it is responsible to impulsively donate to a random non-profit in the wake of a major disaster.
There are currently countless charities, which are taking donations for the disaster, but while they are not working in country, say they will fund trusted local charities who are responding to the crisis.
But some bloggers are skeptical, pointing out since Japan has sought very limited international assistance, it is better to wait until you are sure that your money is going where it should be.
“If you read the fine print in most non-profits appeals for this disaster, you’ll see phrases such as: ‘prepared to assist’, ‘readying a team’, ‘stand at the ready’ and ‘assessing the situation” says this blog from "Good intentions are not enough".
“But few have actually deployed staff. And there is the very real possibility that many of the organisations currently collecting donations for the recovery efforts might not be allowed to operate in Japan,” the article adds.
Humanitarians, who deal with disasters on a regular basis, say donating must be responsible and the public should not forget other major crises around the world which are slowly unfolding such as the political unrest in Ivory Coast.
“It’s obvious that you want to help when you see the terrible scenes, but this is what causes the massive flows of money in a major sudden disaster much of which is unspent, but virtually nothing is given for a disaster like the floods in Pakistan last year,” said a disaster expert in New Delhi.
“Yes, Japan has a crisis on its hands with half a million people displaced and shortages of food and water, but Pakistan had up to ten million who had lost their homes.”
Aid workers add that these mass flows of donations can often result in a mess of uncoordinated international charities parachuting in who, while they may have good intentions, end up wasting vital funds such as in Haiti earthquake last year and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
There is no clear answer, I’m afraid, as whether you should give or not.
But if you do decide to leave moral dilemma of humanitarian aid and its effectiveness in a major disaster out of the equation, then perhaps err on the side of caution and follow some basic principles.