As horrific images of devastation in Japan continue to flash on our TVs and computer screens, the natural urge is to donate money to a relief fund for the country, says Felix Salmon at Reuters. "Please don't." Giving money to a fund earmarked for Japanese victims "is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations" while denying much-needed funding to other, less-reported humanitarian disasters. If you want to help those in need, then by all means give money to the unrestricted funds of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross or Save The Children, who will spend it where and when it is most needed. Donating to charities who "jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices," says Salmon, is a waste of your well-intentioned money. Here, an excerpt:
We are all better at responding to human suffering caused by dramatic, telegenic emergencies than to the much greater loss of life from ongoing hunger, disease and conflict. That often results in a mess of uncoordinated NGOs parachuting in to emergency areas with lots of good intentions, where a strategic official sector response would be much more effective. Meanwhile, the smaller and less visible emergencies where NGOs can do the most good are left unfunded.
In the specific case of Japan, there’s all the more reason not to donate money. Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it.