Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pakistan Floods: How to donate effectively

Villagers jostle for  relief supplies at flood hit area in Basera, near Muzaffargarh.
Image Credit: Associated Free Press

With rampaging floods moving towards Southern Sindh threatening the ruins of Moenjodaro and Benazir Bhutto's mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh and leaving behind a fourth of the country under water, Pakistan is facing a massive humanitarian crisis. Anywhere from 6 million to over 20 million people have been displaced by the floods, more than the number of people affected by the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined. With reports of cholera outbreaks and other water-borne diseases on the rise, there are fears that the death toll could rise. Given that only 20% of United Nations $460 million dollar relief goal has been raised so far, there is a serious need for more relief funds. According to this BBC statistic, only $6.85 has been donated so far per flood survivor (most of this is unconfirmed pledges).

If you are like me and have decided to donate an X amount of funds to this disaster, it is very likely that you are now facing a conundrum. With the vast amount of donation options out there and your limited funding capability as an individual, how can you ensure that the donation that you make will provide flood victims with the most bang from your buck?

You have to determine two things: 1) what are the resources needed and 2) what are the resources that you are interested in funding. In the case of Pakistan's floods, there are three main immediate resource needs: adequate shelter, food supplements and medical supplies. There are several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in fulfilling these needs. (Side note: Pakistanis can also donate to a government trust, but considering the level of corruption within the bureaucracy, I'm not going to opt for that).

 Adequate Shelter and Food Supplements

1) United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has partnered with mGive in the United States to allow for mobile donations. Text SWAT to 50555 will help donate towards flood victims helping to fund tents and emergency aid to families in need (US only). Please reply YES when prompted to confirm your gift. You can also donate to the UNHCR emergency fund which will help to provide blankets, refugee survival kits (containing a mattress, cooking stove, blankets and soap) and weather proof tents to displaced persons.

2) Save the Children 
Save the Children has been working to provide food supplies, shelter materials and hygiene kits to 37,800 adults and children in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region and are currently expanding their services into the affected regions of Punjab and Sindh. They are also fund raising through mobile donations (US only); Text 20222 to donate $10 to the Pakistan emergency fund. You can also donate online as well as via telephone. About 90% of all donations go towards their designated programs. Click here to access their financial records for fiscal year 2008 and 2009.

3) United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP)
The UN World Food Programme is providing food supplies to flood victims all over Pakistan. They work in partnership with other local and international NGOs to ensure that food supplies reach where they are needed.  The WFP is currently supporting 430,000 individuals and hopes to reach 2 million people by the end of this August 20th, the largest amount ever supported in this organization's history. You can donate online here. Donations are tax deductible for residents of the Unites States, Canada, Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, and Hong Kong.

4)Edhi Foundation
Edhi Foundation is leading the flood relief efforts in Pakistan and have already begun providing services to affected individuals in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab. They are the largest and the most respected private NGO in Pakistan  and  known for their notorious approach to effectively lowering administrative and service costs. In you are in Pakistan, donating to this organization is probably a good idea. Donations can be made in person or through the phone at local Edhi Centers.

Medical Care

5)Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders)
Medicins Sans Frontiers  is providing emergency medical care to flood victims in Pakistan via mobile clinics and health centers in all four provinces affected  as well as sanitation equipment, water, drugs and medical material to displaced persons. You can donate online or through the phone at local MSF offices. MSF's audited financial statements for the fiscal years 2008 and 2009 can be accessed here.

6)International Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC)
The joint International Red Cross/Red Crescent is currently seeking $16,333,000 (US) of funds to support 25,000 families for a period of nine months in terms of food, water, sanitation services and emergency medical services. It is working closely with the Pakistani branch of the IRC to deliver these services on the ground. You can donate online or at your local Red Cross and Red Crescent offices via telephone. Please select Pakistan  when asked to specify a program.

Once you have identified which resources you would like to provide, you can donate to the organization of your choice (not limited to list above).

For individuals abroad: If you and your family members are considering making individual donations, you might want to consider spreading out funds across a large number of NGOs, both Pakistani and international so that you can assist with a variety of resource needs. If you are considering pooling your funds together as a family, pick an organization of your choice and ensure that at least 85% of the funds donated are going to the designated services. If you have relatives in Pakistan, it would be more effective to send donations to them which can be used to purchase items needed by small local NGOs. A list of items urgently needed can be accessed here. Note: The list is located halfway through the document, so please scroll down.

For individuals in Pakistan: You have the option of purchasing and donating the goods and resources needed. There is currently a great need for food supplies, clothing, water purification tablets, bedding materials, medicines and drinking water. Please contact the NGO of your choice when determining which items to donate. When donating money, keep in mind that the most effective way to donate is through cash. Donations made through credit card or cheque may take up to a week to be processed and can slow down the aid process considerably.