Where the Need is Greatest

Picture courtesty of Reuters/Stringer: Refugees from Ivory Coast walk with their belongings through Grand Gedeh county in eastern Liberia March 23, 2011.

Once again the American people are showing their generosity of spirit through an outpouring of concern and donations to the many humanitarian crises that are unfolding, from the Japan earthquake to the political upheaval across the Middle East.  This modern age of connectivity is a blessing to any humanitarian organization seeking to raise funds for its work. 

That is, if the crisis for which they are trying to raise monies happens to be in the headlines.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, more than $161 million has been raised by organizations for the Japan emergency.  Information is lacking on what has been raised for the Ivory Coast, a country currently in the midst of domestic turmoil with at least 800,000 people already uprooted from their homes.

For every personal interest story you hear from a hyper-crisis, be it floods in Myanmar, earthquakes in Haiti, or the current situation in Japan, there are dozens more crises happening all over the world.   Some are small, some are just not reported.

Organizations such as mine guide people to reputable aid agencies with a strong capacity to intervene in numerous crises at once.  Agencies that know that helping people to help themselves doesn’t always happen in the timeframe of a news program or within the attention span of a political cycle. 

It would not be feasible to ask for every person who gives to a large front-page emergency to also give to all the rest.

What is feasible is that we do our research.  And then trust the agency we choose to do theirs.  Let them assess where the need is greatest worldwide, even if that means un-checking the box on the donation page that specifies your donation go to the crisis that first brought you to their site to begin with. 

You just never know, your donation may still end up there, if that is where the need is greatest.

** Patty McIlreavy is senior director for Humanitarian Policy at InterAction