The devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is overwhelming, and human nature is to offer assistance in any form. But as with Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, resist the instinct to clean out your closet and pack up clothes and household goods and ship them off.
Right now, access to people affected by the disaster is a major challenge facing the aid community in the Philippines. According to the most recent U.N. Situation Report, resources to deliver relief goods are extremely limited. Roundtrip travel on the 11-kilometer road which connects the airport to the city of Tacloban currently takes about six hours; it is the only cleared road, according the U.N. The airport’s air traffic control and fuel storage facility were damaged. Consider what happens when plane full of unwanted donations is competing for runway space with planes carrying needed medicines and food items. Someone has to unload those donations, someone needs to sort through them for customs, someone needs to truck them to affected areas which are hard to reach anyway and where there’s a limited supply of fuel. When old shoes and clothes are sent from the U.S., they just waste people’s time and slow down getting lifesaving medicines and food to affected people.
“Dumping” goods into areas of need also puts local vendors out of business at a time when they need their businesses to recover most. Your son’s old Nikes may put a smile on the face of a child for an instant, but you’ve now undermined his father who sells shoes in the local market, and who is trying to regain his livelihood to help put that same child through school.
Write a check to the Red Cross and give the old clothes and stuff to your local rummage sale or Goodwill.