Japanese Relief Donations Not Necessarily Welcome
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Millions of dollars have been donated to help victims in Japan, but it's an affluent country and there are those who believe it doesn't need outside financial assistance. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.
ELIZABETH BLAIR: It's an odd thing to see a disaster relief organization practically turn down money, but this is what it says on the Doctors Without Borders website.
Unidentified Man: (Reading) At this point, we are not accepting donations specifically earmarked for the recovery efforts in Japan.
Ms. JENNIFER TIERNEY (Director, U.S. Development, Doctors Without Borders): We made the decision not to proactively solicit restricted funds for Japan that we probably would not be able to use for the core expertise that we have, which is direct medical assistance.
BLAIR: U.S. Development Director Jennifer Tierney says Doctors Without Borders is working in Japan, but the need there is not nearly as great as it was for, say, the disaster in Haiti.
Ms. TIERNEY: We could raise and use a lot funds for Haiti. The entire government was wiped out, the U.N. was really decimated, so there was a very big role for MSF Doctors Without Borders to play. With Japan, that's not necessarily the case.
BLAIR: Plenty of other charities are accepting donations earmarked for Japan, and this bothers Felix Salmon, a finance blogger for Reuters.
Mr. FELIX SALMON (Finance Blogger, Reuters): While there's lots of stuff which needs to be done in Japan right now, money isn't the problem.
BLAIR: Humanitarian organizations also need to respond to chronic ongoing problems, like hunger, disease and violence. And that's why Felix Salmon believes people should donate to the general fund of an organization.
Mr. SALMON: To give unrestricted funds to charities which know where the need is and then let the people who run the charities decide where that money can best be spent.
BLAIR: But for many people, the motivation to donate skyrockets in the face of a large-scale natural disaster. Mari Kuraishi is co-founder of Global Giving, a kind of clearinghouse for charities worldwide.
Ms. MARI KURAISHI (Co-Founder, Global Giving): You know, if someone wants to help in Japan, and there is an organization that can use that help, we're in the business of facilitating that.
BLAIR: Global Giving set up a fund for Japan almost immediately, before deciding exactly how the money would be spent. Kuraishi says almost half of the nearly 1.5 million they've raised so far will go to seven different organizations working in Japan.
The American Red Cross also set up a Japan fund. Roger Lowe is a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. He says just because Japan is a rich country, doesn't mean they won't need the help.
Mr. ROGER LOWE (Spokesperson, American Red Cross): Some disasters are too big for any one country to handle and that's why the world community responds, whether it's helping the people of Haiti, whether it's helping the people, in this case, of Japan.
BLAIR: So far, the American Red Cross has received $76 million in donations designated for Japan.
Elizabeth Blair, NPR News, Washington.
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