Getting Relief To Typhoon Victims Still Tough

Disaster relief agencies are still struggling to reach those in need with supplies because of debris-strewn roads, shattered infrastructure and bad weather, four days after an historic typhoon devastated parts of the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, affected more than 9 million people across the island nation. The category-5 typhoon brought sustained winds of 145 miles per hours, leaving a trail of massive devastation, with 250 reported dead as of Monday but 10,000 feared dead.

“Disaster relief organizations are just doing what they have to do to break through the logjams of lack of communication and transportation,” said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP).

“The issue we’re seeing is that the destruction was so total, so absolute in the central Philippines that relief workers having a hard time providing emergency shelter, food and water, the basic services you would expect after a disaster,” Ottenhoff said. Getting relief to needed areas will continue to be an issue until the airport is up and running and roads are repaired, he said.

“The situation today is desperate in terms of food, water and shelter, we know that what’s also occurring is, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, their livelihoods and there’s concern about disease and communications,” he said.
Many relief agencies said fundraising totals might be available later in the week. In the meantime, other organizations already have committed millions of dollars:
AARP Foundation has established a relief fund for typhoon victims, to be matched dollar for dollar up to $500,000
Global Giving has received $135,775 funding to date, with a goal of raising $500,000.
New Haven, Conn.-based Knights of Columbus is donating $500,000 to efforts in the Philippines, where it has had a presence since 1905 and has hundreds of thousands of members.
Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) has pledged $500,000.
The Western Union Foundation will make an initial $100,000 grant to Save the Children and match qualifying donations to NGOs serving the impacted region.
Baltimore, Md.-based Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has made an initial commitment of $50,000.

Many factors will come into play for fundraising efforts, according to Patrick Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Among the key variables will be how large an area is affected by the disaster, which tends to drive media coverage, which in turn drives donations. “It’s self-reinforcing: the more casualties, the more damage, the more media coverage and the more coverage usually means more philanthropic support,” he said.

Media coverage has been typical, Rooney said, in the sense that the destruction is getting coverage but it’s not lead coverage anymore in newspaper or television reports.

Many disaster relief organizations have deployed staff or materials to the Philippines but few had preliminary estimates of fundraising. Mercy Corps had a team leave its Portland, Ore., headquarters today bound for the Philippines while the organization had raised nearly $1 million so far.

The response to the 2010 earthquake in Japan was relatively minor in comparison to other recent disasters, Rooney said, because it’s considered an affluent, industrialized nation. Another aspect that could affect American philanthropy will be the proximity to the U.S. There was considerable support for the Indonesian tsunami in 2005 but the response to Haiti was substantially greater than Japan, in part because of its proximity to the U.S., Rooney said.

Based on previous disaster giving, typically about two-thirds of fundraising is generated within the first two months and some three-quarters after three months, Rooney said. Four weeks after Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast last year, fundraising had reached $244 million. “The first week or two, for almost all disasters, it starts off pretty flat,” he said.

In the pre-texting era, the median gift in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Indonesian tsunami in 2005 and Hurricane Katrina in 2006 was $50 while the average gift ranged from $125 to $135.
Texting may actually lower those figures because donors are limited to giving $10 or $20 at a time, Rooney said. Donors giving by check or online can give whatever amounts they want. Texting donors would have to text more than once to give as much as a one-time $50 or $100 online donor. “It may well lower the average,” he said.

United Way Worldwide launched a Disaster Rebuilding Fund, to support long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts. American Red Cross deployed two disaster relief specialists on Saturday to assist in assessment and relief efforts. Communication is still very limited in the hardest-hit areas so Red Cross also will send two telecommunications specialists and a satellite system in the coming days.

AmeriCares has delivered almost $230 million in humanitarian aid to the Philippines since 1985, including relief supplies for survivors of last month’s earthquake as well as several typhoons in the past five years. The Stamford, Conn.-based organization pre-positioned emergency medicines and supplies to help families displaced by the storm. An emergency shipment was under way with enough medical aid for 20,000 survivors, including antibiotics, wound care supplies and pain relievers. The organization also is providing emergency funding for partner agencies in the Philippines to purchase and distribute relief supplies.
LWR teams will meet with representatives of the United Nations, government agencies, local partners and churches and community groups to coordinate a response. It likely will include a cash-for-work program similar to the program implemented after Typhoon Bopha in 2012.

Operation USA pre-positioned water purification chemicals in Manila that were quickly delivered. The Los Angeles, Calif.-based international relief agency has worked in the Philippines since 1986 and called on long-standing partnerships with local agencies to effectively aid recovery efforts.

Heifer International reported that all of its staff members in the Philippines were safe and en route to the central region to assess the damage to five of the organization’s projects in the areas most affected by the typhoon.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that efforts to reach the city of Tacloban in Leyte province are complicated by roads blocked by debris as well as strong winds and torrential rain resulting in many flights to the damaged airport being canceled. MSF has 23 staff currently in the Philippines with plans to increase that to more than 1000 in the next few days. Bad weather prevented teams from traveling from flying from Cebu to Tacloban. The Cebu airport is congested and MSF cargo planes likely will have to divert to Manila.

UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, Shelter Box USA and World Vision are among the U.S.-based charities accepting mobile donations of $10 by texting via the BBB Mobile Giving Foundation.
The mGive Foundation has 11 campaigns featuring shortcodes for donors to give via text with the biggest being the State Department, which has designated five charities.

“It’s not just a relief issue but how do we rebuild that community to what it was,” Ottenhoff said. “This is sometimes a hard story for donors to understand. The media attention is on the immediate relief – the horrors we see on television or read about – it’s harder for us to think through, what’s going to be need long-term,” he said.

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now and media attention drives donation dollars, Ottenhoff said. “What we wanted to do was make sure donors who did want to do something but didn’t know what to do, had a safe place where they could put their money. What we’ll do with it, we’ll learn from NGOs in the field, do our own research, and be able to invest donor dollars in a safe and effective manner,” he said, focusing on mid- and long-term recovery.