Donating abroad: Tips to remember when assisting relief efforts overseas

Connecting Business initiative Secretariat • 21 November 2017
Media in group Fiji

With the start of the 2017-18 South Pacific Cyclone season, the Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council, together with the Pacific Logistics Cluster, are keen to remind members on some of the most important do’s and don’ts of donating during disaster response, to ensure your business’ generosity is channelled to have the greatest positive impact across the Pacific region

This article focuses primarily on best way the Fiji private sector can help disaster relief outside of Fiji.

Emergencies at home versus emergencies abroad: how donations differ

During times of emergency many businesses wish to mobilise support to assist those impacted. Within a Fijian context, the country’s private sector has the opportunity to play a fundamental role in assisting communities affected by disaster both at home and across the region. However, the wrong donation at the wrong time can hamper, not help relief efforts, and the type of support may differ depending on whether the assistance is directed at domestic populations or internationally.

For example, when a cyclone hits Fiji, the rallying of Fijian businesses keen to assist recovery efforts through the immediate dispatch of in-kind and material donations is overwhelming. And, when these donations are coordinated and supported through access to local transport, storage, knowledge and community-based contacts, they play a central role in rebuilding livelihoods. However, in comparison, when disaster strikes overseas the reality of dispatching – and delivering - goods is a little more complicated.

To start, when material donations are sent from Fiji into disaster situations abroad (e.g. Vanuatu) access to fundamental coordination tools and services such as transport and warehousing immediately diminishes, and the arrival of unrequested goods at an international port can congest entry points and access to priority items. What’s more, the cost of sending the goods from Fiji and the time taken to reach impacted communities overseas increases due to limitations of shipping schedules and transport, as well as customs and tariff fees. In some instances, only 5-10% of unrequested goods sent from overseas into disaster situations actually meet urgent needs.

Cash is best

Given the costly, timely and logistical constraints associated with sending goods, donating cash to organisations working on the ground, is generally the best donation a business – or individual - can contribute to emergency disaster relief overseas. As Fijian businesses know, disaster situations evolve quickly, and the needs of those affected change just as rapidly.

A cash donation is fast, flexible, cheap – and easy – to transport. Most importantly, it allows organizations to purchase and deliver services exactly when they’re needed, and provides versatility to respond to new requirements as they arise. Good and services may include emergency medical needs and resources, shelter, blankets, hygiene kits, food and water, as well as transport to the hardest-to-reach places. What’s more, it also injects much-needed funds into an economy hit with catastrophic losses following a disaster.

More information?

A second article will be published in the coming months on best donation practices to help communities impacted by disaster within Fiji. If you want to know more about how your business can assist disaster relief efforts please contact Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council or CBi Secretariat.