News of the Nepal earthquake was barely out before the first calls came in.
People across the country had been moved by the distressing scenes on television and wanted to help. Many wanted to donate goods to send overseas – sleeping bags, tents, children’s clothes, kitchen utensils and even food.
But while the Red Cross is grateful for these offers, such an approach won’t work. Here’s why:
1. Big disasters need a planned response.
The Red Cross buys and stores relief items in countries where disasters are likely to happen. (In Kathmandu, for example, we already had thousands of tarpaulins, blankets and cooking sets waiting to help.)We then buy fresh supplies in bulk from nearby countries – which is faster, cheaper and helps boost local economies.
2. Flying donated goods makes no financial sense.
The Red Cross pays for commercial air freight like everyone else – and it’s expensive. Very often, the cost of transporting a ‘free’ donation from the UK is more than the value of the donation itself. For the price of flying your second-hand sleeping bag, we could probably buy ten new blankets.
3. Who would sort out the donated stuff?
Our logistics guys at Kathmandu airport are trying to get relief items out to an estimated eight million desperate people scattered across the country. When a plane lands, they really need to know exactly what’s inside. So if there are 10,000 tarpaulins, 8,000 blankets and 5,000 cooking sets (all standardised and high quality), they can get them out to the areas most in need fast.
Now picture for a moment our crews opening a cargo hold filled with hundreds of plastic bags. There’s a sleeping bag here, a tent there, a few teddy bears, a tin of beans. It’s just not feasible.
4. However, your donated goods can help.
If you want your items to make a difference, just take them to any Red Cross shop in the UK. We can even ensure that any money made from the sale of your quality goods such as clothes or books goes directly to the Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Check out which items we can accept.
5. Money is best.
The best and easiest way to help with the Nepal response will always be to make a donation of money. Money can be instantly transferred and converted into whatever’s most needed directly in the disaster zone. Making a donation online is especially fast and useful.
So make no mistake: the flood of kind offers over the past week does credit to everyone involved, and the Red Cross really appreciates the gesture.
But if you really want to do your upmost to help all those suffering in Nepal, there’s only one answer.
Donate to the Nepal Earthquake Appeal.