Am I the only one who gets a little uncomfortable when a certain type of relief becomes popular? It’s not easy to talk about, because it can make you sound so insensitive. And I’ll confess to having waited a few weeks so as not to distract from the task at hand. But now I want to point out three main concerns I’ve had over the last few weeks, not just about Haiti, but about knee-jerk emergency relief in general.
- Everybody and their dog starts raising money. The relief bandwagon gets pretty crowded. Any agency that is remotely connected to relief or the area in question begins collecting funds. Questions about distribution structure, contacts on the ground, etc. get overlooked. We want to help and are willing to give to anyone who says they are going to help.
- Inefficiency is permitted in the name of haste. Planning falls by the wayside. We want something done NOW. There is a need for quick response, but does that excuse spending twice as much to get the same thing done?
- Good projects lose funding as money is funneled into the emergency bottleneck. Some of these projects are feeding people who will be in dire straits without the aid being provided. They are well-organized, efficient projects, but because they aren’t the latest big thing, they just aren’t as interesting.
Places like Haiti need our help. They need it quickly. But we need to think carefully about the best ways to make our donations do the most good.