Individual contributions a key part of disaster relief

The OlympianNovember 21, 2013 

A changing global climate is spawning more frequent and intense storms, as Americans know all too well, from tornadoes in the Heartland to hurricanes in the Gulf and along the Atlantic seaboard.

Perhaps those experiences have helped us empathize with the poverty-stricken Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 4,000, rendered half a million homeless and thrust millions into starvation. It left people so overwhelmed, it took a week to start burying the decomposing bodies lying among the wreckage.

This is a region of hundreds of small islands and coastal villages, whose geography not only made it vulnerable to the most powerful storm to ever hit the Philippines, but also makes disaster relief difficult.

The United States and other nations have responded quickly. The aircraft carrier George Washington is there, providing troops and helicopters to distribute millions of dollars of aid to remote areas.

Typhoon Haiyan unleashed more destructive power than either Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, including a 16-foot seawater surge that washed over several islands, wiping out most traces of human life. Should the Philippines have been better prepared? Of course, as we should have been in New Orleans and along the East Coast.

No nation or region should need further evidence to plan for any and all possible extreme and unusual climatic events.

The international community is responding admirably, but individuals can help, too, by sending cash — not food or clothing — to help relief organizations transport aid where it’s needed. People are still without food, water and shelter, but access remains the most difficult and expensive challenge.

Proven relief organizations such as the International Red Cross and World Vision ensure your contributions provide the best help. The InterAction alliance — at www.interaction.org — has compiled a list of experienced organizations on the ground helping Filipinos.

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