Donating to Disaster Relief: Sending Goods back Home ‘Expensive’
Volume XVIII No. 5 (November 8-14, 2014)
HONG KONG—In the lead up to the first anniversary of typhoon Yolanda’s destruction of the Visayas islands, a Filipino donor group in Hong Kong had to learn the hard way how in-kind donations from abroad may be best sent back home.
WIMLER Partnerships for Social Progress was able to raise some HK$139,159,70 (P805,526) in cash donations and numerous relief goods from donors in the Crown Colony and in four other countries in the last 11 months since Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) hopped islands in the Visayas and wrought destruction that the world took notice.
But as WIMLER volunteers and donors had been sending these donations to affected residents in the towns of Coron (Palawan province), Bantayan (Cebu) and Estancia (Iloilo), something was more expensive as the relief effort from the group progressed: The sending of the donated goods itself.
”We realized that sending of goods from Hong Kong to the local beneficiaries was not only impractical but even more expensive,” said Filipina-Dutch Leila Rispens-Noel, WIMLER co-founder.
What happened was some of the cash donations raised was used to defray the costs of shipping relief goods to WIMLER’s beneficiary-municipalities.
For example, about HK$6,575 (some P38,059) was spent to ship tents, 12 boxes of baby milk and four boxes of Nestogen (an adult milk brand), 18 feeding bottles and medicines to Coron. A separate HK$16,700 (P96,668) was spent to ship goods, blankets, tents and blankets benefiting 150 families in Bantayan. (Also in Bantayan, WIMLER handed out 20 small fishing boats to affected fishermen in the area.)
Rispens-Noel wished that the cash donations raised could have been used to buy goods in affected areas —for as long as the recipient of such amounts is well-trusted.
If another natural disaster happens, “it is better to collect the funds and send the money to the contact person/s and who shall then be tasked to buy the goods locally instead of sending goods from Hong Kong,” Rispens-Noel said.
Nevertheless the lesson learned, WIMLER continued to attract donations to Yolanda-stricken areas. Like for the beneficiaries from Estancia, Iloilo, WIMLER’s young volunteers based in Hong Kong organized organizing a Dodgeball tournament. With the help of such tournament, some HK$37,584 (P217,555) was raised and eventually used to buy 38 sacks of rice, 150 pieces of blankets, 12 boxes of Bearbrand milk, 100 pieces of aluminum kettles, and 20 liter kerosene. Some of that amount was also used to hand out three motorized fishing boats complete with fishing gears, support organic farming project, as well as provide financial support to 20 Estancia-based pupils who are victims of Yolanda.
Apart from the Apart from the above fund campaigns, WIMLER also received a total of HK$78,300.70 (P453,244) from individual and corporate donors —including Filipino-run firms— based in Hong Kong, Netherlands, Belgium, the United States and Mexico.
On Nov. 8, 2013, Yolanda had left 11 million people have been affected and many have been left homeless. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that at least 6,268 died, 28,689 were injured and 1,061 were missing given the wrath of the world’s strongest weather system to hit landfall. Damage in agriculture and infrastructure is estimated at US$ 878.86 million.
But months after some billions of donations had been raised worldwide, there are still concerns surrounding the judicious use of donations on the ground after a natural disaster. Even a recent report by the Commission on Audit (COA) showed that over-PhP741.59 million in quick response funds that were coursed through the Office of Civil Defense and the NDRMMC have yet to be spent.
On the part of Filipinos abroad and their organizations, known to be frequent donors to the motherland right after natural disasters strike, they continue to send in-kind donations.
But given its own experiences in response to Yolanda relief efforts, Rispens-Noel of the three-year-old nonprofit WIMLER (www.wimler.org) says a “good” agreement with relevant parties, persons or group beneficiaries must be done before sending any goods.
“Haste makes waste. Things not clearly communicated will not only resort to more confusion but would make the shipment of goods more expensive.”/ Jeremaiah Opiniano